On drafting Denham

JASON PAUL -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

If Toronto's Denham Brown plans on being in the NBA soon, this is his last NCAA season to prove it.

The 6-foot-6 forward has had a successful collegiate career thus far with the University of Connecticut Huskies, having won an NCAA championship, being a starter most of his three seasons and seeing three of his teammates wind up being drafted into the NBA.

But there is a feeling he hasn't yet played to his full potential -- he has battled through injuries, some inconsistent play and the growing pains that many Canadians go through at a high-major program.

Brown is going to be in a dogfight to be on the board for the 2006 NBA draft, with some optimistic experts pegging him as a solid second-rounder. Brown has come prepared for his senior campaign more mature and stronger than the UConn coaching staff ever could have expected.

"He has been terrific," UConn associate coach Tom Moore said. "He has come back with a terrific attitude, has been more vocal and developed into a leader of this team."

Brown is one of four UConn players tabbed as potential '06 NBA draft picks, helping earn the Huskies -- who have graduated Ben Gordon (Chicago Bulls), Emeka Okafor (Charlotte Bobcats) and Charlie Villaneuva (Raptors) to the NBA in the past two years -- the No. 3 ranking in the NCAA this past week.

"I feel very comfortable with being one of the captains and helping the team get back to the Final Four," Brown, 22, said. "I feel good about my chances (at the NBA), but I can't get too worried about that. I have to stay focused with what's at hand."

Brown's statistics have slightly improved each season in minutes per game (21.6-25.0-26.3), points (7.7-8.9-10.4), assists (1.1-1.2-1.5) and rebounds (3.4-3.9-4.0). But more importantly, he has turned into a dependable defender, worked on creating his own shot and become stronger under the basket.

If he continues to improve his ball-handling and creativity he could move up into the first round of the draft, according to Moore.

"He has a great chance to make it to the NBA and to stay in the NBA, which are two different things," said Moore, who has talked to many NBA scouts at UConn practices who are impressed with Brown's potential. "He's strong and tough enough that he could play for a lot of years -- he has the body for it. He would have the most success in the NBA as a two-guard."

Brown spent another summer playing for the Canadian national team, which was highlighted by a game-high 28 points in an upset win over the U.S., during the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in the Dominican Republic.

"What I learned from the national team was that it's not just about scoring. There's a lot of skills to my game I'm using I hadn't before," Brown said. "This year, more is expected of me and I'm ready for the challenge."

While Brown is the highest-profile Canadian in the NCAA this season, he is not the only one.

Big things are expected of Vancouver's Levon Kendall, a 6-foot-9 junior at Pittsburgh. The small forward scored 40 points in a huge upset at the world under-21 championship over a U.S. team that featured more than 10 NBA prospects.

"I could see both Denham and Levon winding up in the NBA, although Levon still has another year," national team assistant coach Greg Francis said. "Denham and Levon could be national team players for the next 10-15 years if they want."

Other Canadians expected to earn major minutes include a pair of Montrealers, sophomore point guard Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (Gonzaga) and senior guard Mohamed Hachad (Northwestern), and senior forward Jermaine Bucknor (Richmond) of Edmonton.

Locally, there's a handful of guards who will be major players: Former Eastern Commerce teammates Jermaine Anderson (Fordham), Tristan Blackwood (Central Connecticut State) and Kingsley Costain (Pepperdine); Antwi Atuahene (Arizona State); Jamie McNeilly (New Orleans); and Andrew Carpenter (Denver).

The top three freshmen who should see some action are Jevohn Shepherd (Michigan), Ryan Wright (UCLA) and Andy Rautins (Syracuse).


Photos