TORONTO - There are pockets of the United States where college hoops trumps all and professional ball is all but an afterthought.
That doesn’t tend to be the case in Canada though. In fact, thanks to the Raptors and even the failed Vancouver Grizzlies, there are a lot of basketball fans who, though staunch NBA supporters, only tune in to the NCAA once March Madness begins.
For the benefit of those who slept through a pretty fantastic NCAA season and some intriguing conference tournaments, here are the top potential NBAers.
You’ll know a lot more about them by the time April rolls around.
Anthony Davis, freshman, F/C, Kentucky
The consensus No. 1 overall selection this June just turned 19 on Sunday. He grew about a foot in one year in high school, going from one scholarship offer to more than he could count. That means he has some swingman skills to go with his fierce rebounding and shot-blocking talents. Should be able to show more of his offensive game in the NBA, though it will take some time for him to fill out. Has drawn comparisons to Marcus Camby and Serge Ibaka, though he should be better than both.
Harrison Barnes, sophomore, F, UNC
Could have been a top three NBA pick last summer, but stayed in school for another crack at a championship. Has great size and is an elite jump shooter. Has yet to live up to his full billing (first consensus pre-season all-American coming out of high school) but the talent is there. Question is will he show a takeover mentality many have been waiting for in order to propel the Tar Heels to the top? Some scouts see him a bit like Rudy Gay, who also was knocked for a perceived lack of desire.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, freshman, SF, Kentucky
Cut from the Dwyane Wade mold, a winner who goes all out every play and can make a big impact at either end of the court. Shooting isn’t there yet, but he’s going to be a defensive stopper at the next level who will get buckets in transition. Gerald Wallace or Wade with more size and without the ball-handling are decent comparisons.
Thomas Robinson, junior, PF, Kansas
Took off after the Morris twins left for the NBA. Right there with Davis in player of the year race. He has size (6-foot-9), length (7-foot-1 wingspan) and quickness. Robinson is a dominant rebounder thanks to his size, length, heft and athleticism and a difficult player to keep off of the scoresheet. Built like Kris Humphries, but is longer with a higher basketball IQ.
Jared Sullinger, sophomore, PF, Ohio State
Like Barnes, Sullinger stayed instead of becoming a top 3-5 selection. Kevin Love’s success in the pros might dissuade some of his detractors who say he is too wide and not athletic enough. What he definitely is, is one of the best post scorers to come along in years and a strong rebounder. He won’t be Love, but he won’t be Michael Sweetney either.
Bradley Beal, freshman, SG, Florida
He’s not Ray Allen, Stephen Curry or Eric Gordon, but Beal does have some similarities to those great players. Most notably, Beal is a fantastic shooter, who handles the ball better than most shooting guards. Will be a top scoring option wherever he lands.
Andre Drummond, freshman, PF, UCONN
Considered the second coming of Amare Stoudemire, came to the NCAA a year earlier than most expected and it showed at times. Needs to mature and get more consistent, but only Davis approaches his upside and he’ll go top 5 on potential alone.
Perry Jones III, sophomore, SF/PF, Baylor
See above. Does he love the game? Does he play hard enough? We’re not sure, but he plays an awful lot like a guy who faced similar questions and turned out to be pretty good — Lamar Odom.
Jeremy Lamb, sophomore, G, UCONN
Stepped up as much as Kemba Walker to help Huskies win it all last year. Can score like few in this draft.
John Henson, sophomore, F/C, UNC
Nicknamed the aircraft carrier for obvious reasons. Another disrupter on defence who can also score.
Terrence Williams, sophomore, F, Kentucky
Extremely talented, but also extremely inconsistent. Has the ability to be an excellent pro, but no guarantees it all comes together for that to happen.
Austin Rivers, freshman, G, Duke
Probably overrated heading into the season. Rivers is not a point guard like his dad Doc, but he’s a good player in the O.J. Mayo mold, if caught between positions a bit.
Andrew Nicholson, senior, PF, St. Bonaventure
The big Canadian is having a heck of a March already. Might be a first round lock already and another big game would just cement it. Up against a very good defensive team though.
Quincy Miller, Baylor; Brandon Paul, Illinois; Marquis Teague, Kentucky; Adonis Thomas, Memphis; Myck Kabongo, Texas; Ray McCallum, Detroit; Draymond Green, Michigan State; Kendall Marshall, UNC; Doron Lamb, Kentucky; Mike Moser, UNLV; Patric Young, Florida; Dion Waiters/ Kris Joseph, Syracuse; Kevin Pangos/Robert Sacre, Gonzaga; Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas; Mason Plumlee, Duke; C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State; Cody Zeller, Indiana.