Bidding Them Farewell: Paying Homage to the Undrafted College SeniorsPosted by EJacoby on July 2nd, 2012
The NBA Draft is only two rounds long, so it’s quite difficult to crack the top 60 eligible draftees into the league in a given year. It’s even more challenging for graduating seniors, who not only compete with younger collegians but also foreign prospects from around the world who possess greater ‘upside’ in the minds of NBA evaluators. Constantly in search of the next hidden gem, general managers tend to overlook the players they’ve watched over the past four seasons in college. Only four seniors were picked in the first round during last Thursday’s draft, and while another 17 made it into the second there was still a large pool of graduates who didn’t hear their names called. There were far more than 21 impactful seniors in college basketball last season, and we’re here to honor the careers of those who didn’t get selected. We won’t forget the contributions of these following players, and with hard work and a little luck they should have a strong chance of cracking an NBA roster in the future.
- Kevin Jones, West Virginia – A career that included a trip to the Final Four as a sophomore and leading the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior wasn’t enough to merit consideration by the NBA. Jones averaged 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season on 50.9% shooting from the field and 78.0% shooting from the line while also making a three-pointer per game. He also led the conference in Offensive Rating, this all coming on a squad with little offensive help elsewhere.
- William Buford, Ohio State – Buford was a McDonald’s All-American guard with prototypical 6’6″ size who averaged double figures every season at Ohio State, making two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He shoots it well and has shown a strong tendency to fit into an offensive scheme with other talented scorers, but his inability to take over games perhaps made him overlooked by scouts.
- Scott Machado, Iona – Machado led the country in assists last season (9.9 per game) while also reaching career highs in points, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage as the leader of an at-large NCAA Tournament team. Even in a weak point guard draft, no team pulled the trigger on Machado, but he’ll have a great chance to dazzle in Summer League as one of the more polished floor leaders.
- Drew Gordon, New Mexico – Originally a top 30 high school recruit at UCLA, Gordon left the team before resurrecting his career with the Lobos the last two seasons. As a senior, Gordon ranked fourth in the country in rebounding (11.1 RPG) while dominating down low in a solid Mountain West Conference. An athletic 6’9″ forward, Gordon should have the strongest chance of anyone on this list to make the NBA next year.
- John Shurna, Northwestern – He was unable to lead Northwestern to the NCAA Tournament, but Shurna improved every season in Evanston with a unique game as a 6’9″ sharpshooter capable of playing the stretch four role in the NBA. He led the country’s best conference in scoring (20.0 PPG) and three-pointers made as a senior and even averaged 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals as well.
- Tu Holloway, Xavier – Along with the next player on this list, he came into 2011-12 as one of the best point guards in America and left with a run to the Sweet Sixteen as a productive floor general. But a rough patch that included a multi-game suspension stemming from the Crosstown Rivalry brawl may have hurt him, as well as diminished averages in scoring, assists, and rebounding from his breakout junior year.
- Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin – Few players were as valuable to their teams as Taylor was to Wisconsin, as the point guard established everything the Badgers did offensively and defensively. Decreased shooting numbers during his senior year definitely hurt his case to get drafted as an undersized point.
- Henry Sims, Georgetown – At 6’10″, Sims led the #3-seeded Hoyas in assists (3.5 APG) last season as an impressive point-forward while also contributing 11.6 points, 6.0 boards, and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting a solid 70.8% from the free throw line. Incredibly productive and also just coming into his own as a breakout performer last year, it’s surprising Sims didn’t hear his name in round two.
- Reggie Hamilton, Oakland – Hamilton led the country in scoring (26.2 PPG) and free throws made last season on a decent Oakland team that made the Big Dance in 2010-11 and nearly upset Texas in the first round that year.
- Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri – His teammates Marcus Denmon and Kim English were selected, but Ratliffe was not as fortunate despite shooting an absurd 69.3% from the field last year and a respectable 69.1% from the foul line with averages of 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game as a sturdy post option on an up-tempo offense for the #2-seed Tigers.
Just because these players were not drafted doesn’t mean they won’t make the NBA. There’s plenty of opportunity for undrafted free agents to make pro rosters, especially as cheap alternatives to aging veterans with diminishing production. Just look at what Wes Matthews has done in an impressive three-year NBA career for the Jazz and Blazers after a productive but undrafted college career from Marquette. Expect at least one or two of the players on our list to make rosters in the next NBA season, and all of them should continue to work hard in the D-League, European leagues, or wherever else they take their basketball careers.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him on Twitter @evanjacoby.