Very Different Paths Connect Top Prospects Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers to the Hornets

Posted by EJacoby on July 3rd, 2012

Before the 2011-12 college basketball season began, two freshmen entered with a buzz far louder than any other newcomers. Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Austin Rivers of Duke were the top two consensus recruits, each heading to blueblood schools with preseason Top 10 hype and national title aspirations. One full year later, the stud prospects are now new teammates with the New Orleans Hornets after being selected with the team’s two lottery picks during the 2012 NBA Draft. But their journeys couldn’t have been any different along the way, with narratives that read nothing like what we expected during their high school recruitment. We’ll detail how Davis and Rivers have traveled such different paths over the past few years yet find themselves united again as the expected saviors for a program – this time as teammates.

Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis (right) went from competing top prospects to now- NBA teammates (AP Photo/K. Maloney)

Anthony Davis stands 6’10″ today, but just three years ago he was a middling 6’2″ guard on a bad high school team. For his first two-and-a-half years at Perspectives Charter School in Chicago, he wasn’t even on the radar as a top college prospect. An average guard on a struggling team in a poor league, Davis couldn’t draw any scouts to his games. Austin Rivers, meanwhile, was already busy in the spotlight. The son of former NBA point guard and current Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, Austin was a recognized recruit since the days he spent lounging in the Boston locker room before Celtics games as a 14-year-old. While Davis struggled in the Chicago Public League in 2010, Rivers was leading his Winter Park (FL) High School to a state title, with 23 points in the championship game. Months later, he was the star player of Team USA’s U-18 gold medal squad at the FIBA Americas, scoring a team record 35 points in one win over Canada.

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Handicapping Lillard’s NBA Chances: How Have Prospects From Mid-Majors Fared in the Pros?

Posted by EJacoby on June 28th, 2012

Looking at the upcoming NBA Draft’s projected lottery picks, most of the players represent the big boys around the nation – Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Connecticut. But smack in the middle between guys that played in a Final Four is a kid from Weber State. Anybody who follows college hoops or draft scouting surely knows about Damian Lillard, but it’s still surprising to see a player ranked so highly who most fans have never seen play a minute of college basketball. Will Lillard, who is projected to go in the top 10 as the draft’s top point guard, struggle to adapt to the massive increase in competition from the Big Sky Conference to the NBA? We researched lottery picks over the past 15 years from mid-major conferences to judge how successful they were in their transition to the league, grading success based on extended NBA productivity in the form of minutes played and value added. We considered all conferences outside of the top six power leagues as ‘mid-majors,’ so even the Atlantic 10, Conference USA and Mountain West qualify for our criteria.

Will Damian Lillard struggle in his transition from the Big Sky to the NBA? (US Presswire/K. Terada)

Taking a look at recent history, names like Jimmer Fredette and Stephen Curry came from smaller schools yet were still some of the most popular collegiate players in the nation. Just because a player hails from a mid-major school doesn’t necessarily mean he was an unheralded prospect. Nonetheless, the point of our analysis is to determine what, if any, crutch comes along with stepping up from such a wide gap in competition for lottery picks. Even though Fredette was a National Player of the Year winner, he still faced relatively weaker competition on a nightly basis at BYU. Is it more difficult to scout and project success for a mid-major prospect? Let’s take a look at how these players have fared historically. You’ll notice a trend that suggests Lillard should have a great chance at NBA success.

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Tracking The Four: NBA Prospecting

Posted by EJacoby on February 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent & regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Fans, writers, and analysts aren’t the only ones watching games these days. As the second half of the conference season heats up, more and more NBA scouts also have their eyes peeled to the college game to track how players perform in big games. During the NCAA Tournament and after the season is typically when you’ll hear NBA talks pertaining to players, but those in tune with the draft already know the relative value of many players. This week’s TT4 Wildcard breaks down which players on our four teams have a shot to play at the next level. There’s plenty of time left for guys’ stock to go up or down, as well. Let’s do some NBA prospecting:

Top Prospects:

There are no surefire lottery (Top 14) picks on any of our four teams, but there are a couple of players who will make a definite push for consideration:

Scouts are Taking Note of Cody Zeller's Productive Freshman Season (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

  • Cody Zeller, Indiana – He’s only a freshman, and it seems like a sure bet that the big man will be returning to Indiana next season to improve with an even stronger team. But if he were to declare for this year’s NBA Draft, Zeller would likely go in the top 20 picks. Looking further down the road, the big man should have a great chance at being a lottery pick in the 2013 Draft. NBADraft.net currently has Zeller rated as their 13th best overall college prospect, and they have him slotted as a top five selection in 2013. With a smooth game and rock solid fundamentals on both ends, Zeller has been perhaps the most productive freshman in the country this season, averaging 15 points, 6.3 boards, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks on an outstanding 65.2% field-goal percentage. He should only continue to improve as he gets stronger and more confident.
  • Mike Moser, UNLV – Our other player with major intrigue is the Runnin’ Rebels leading man, Moser. A top 50 recruit a couple of years ago, Moser was a quick transfer out of UCLA as a freshman and has stormed onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore this season for UNLV. He’s 6’8” and a freak rebounder with tremendous athleticism — his 11.6 RPG leads the Mountain West and is third in the nation. He also has perimeter skills and range out to the three-point line, hitting 30-87 on three-pointers this season. The combination of strength and skill for an athlete his size has Moser as the #22 overall college prospect at Draft Express. They have him slotted as a top 20 pick in the 2012 Draft, though we’d expect him to come back for another season and have a chance to go even higher in 2013.

First Round Fliers:

The following group of players all have something obvious in common, besides the fact that they could be NBA first-round picks. Take a look:

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