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In or Out? How Declaring Effects the NCAAB Landscape

6-28-09

Monday is the last day for college prospects to withdraw from the NBA draft, and the act of doing so will obviously have an impact on the team they are going back to. Players who declare for the draft but do not hire an agent can pull their name back out of it, and this enables them to get a barometer on where they stand now and what they have to aim at for next year.

Here are some of those who have withdrawn already.

Gani Lawal spent two seasons at Georgia Tech, and through the process of working out for NBA teams, the 6'9" forward obviously learned that he is, at best, a borderline first-rounder. Lawal wanted a little more assurance that he would be a first-rounder, so he pulled his name out of consideration. Part of the problem with his game is that he is not a good free throw shooter. You can be a liability at times in the NBA if you can make only 56% of your shots from the line. That was Lawal's percentage last year, when he tallied 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. By the way, those were big increases over the 7.2 points and 3.5 boards he had as a freshman.

What he returns to is a real opportunity to get to the NCAA tournament, which the Yellow Jackets missed last year with their 12-19 record. They have garnered a "one-and-done" prospect, 6'9" forward Derrick Favors, who has been rated the #1 recruit in the country by at least one scouting service. Jay Bilas, the analyst from ESPN, thinks it's quite possible that by going back to school, Lawal can cement his draft status for next year. “Gani will be a better player when he gets into the league because of this,” he says. “He’ll rise up in the draft and probably end up making more money in the process.”  Georgia Tech is now listed at +6600 to win the NCAA title at BetUS.

South Carolina had not one but two players who elected to return to school. Devan Downey was one of the best guards in the SEC last year, averaging 19.8 ppg to rank third in the conference. He was quick on defense, chalking up 2.9 steals per contest. His handicap is that he is small (5'9") and will benefit from another year in the college ranks (although he won't get any taller). Dominique Archie, a 6'7" small forward, will also be coming back for his senior season, making that decision last Thursday. Archie averaged 10.9 points last season to rank third on the team.

Neither of these players got an invite to the NBA scouting combine that took place recently in Chicago, which was a fairly good indicator of their draft possibilities. Both of them will be in their fifth year in college - Downey had to sit out a year as a transfer, while Archie is a redshirt. So there will be two experienced players coming back to Carolina for the Gamecocks, who are listed at 100/1 to win the national title at BetUS.

Kentucky is now listed at +500 at BetUS to win the national title in its first year under new coach John Calipari. Patrick Patterson, the very talented 6'9" forward, has announced that he is returning to school for his junior season, specifically for opportunity to win a championship under Calipari. Patterson could be dominant at times, and he averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. Jodie Meeks, the All-American guard, had still not made his decision as of Monday morning, but it was said that he was leaning toward pulling out. Undoubtedly Calipari's presence has an influence on this decision.

Tennessee, which won 21 games last year but crashed and burned with a first-round NCAA loss to Oklahoma State, will be getting perhaps its most versatile player back for his senior season. Tyler Smith was the Volunteers' leading scorer and assist man this past season and he’s decided that he might not be a first-rounder in the draft. Basically everybody is coming back for Tennessee, which is listed at +2500 to win the title at BetUS.

Jarvis Varnado may have been the single most dominant defensive player in the country, as the 6'9" forward/center swatted away 4.7 shots per game, blocking seven or more nine different times. His return to Mississippi State (100/1 to win the title at BetUS) means that the Bulldogs have a chance to improve upon last year's 23-13 record. Those chances increase even more if they get what they are hoping for from incoming freshman Renardo Sidney, the biggest high school star in the Los Angeles area, although Sidney is really toeing the line when it comes to eligibility issues (possible financial help while in high school might get him investigated). USC and UCLA apparently pulled back from recruiting him. However, this kid is a possible superstar, and if he and Varnado team up it should immediately make then one of the favorites in the SEC.

Speaking of SEC favorites, one of them might normally be Florida (+1800 to win the title at BetUS), but the Gators' 6'6" point guard Nick Calathes, is not coming back. Calathes has signed a contract to play in Greece, but he could still keep his name in the draft, since players from Europe are routinely drafted.

Gonzaga's slender 6'10" forward, Austin Daye, seems to be leaning toward staying in the draft. Daye, who played his sophomore year for the 'Zags (+5000 to win the title at BetUS) last season, has great skills, although he does not possess an NBA body. Still, he is a first-rounder. Luke Harangody was still mulling over whether he would go back to Notre Dame (+3000 to win the title at BetUS), and if he did, it would make a big difference for the Irish, who have lost some veteran talent. The former Big East Player of the Year was considered by many to be a "tweener" at the forward position, but a lot of people have been talking him up now, and he looks like he's got at least a chance of going in the first round.

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