The move from high school to college is a ballplayer’s most dramatic change. Growing up, they were the best players on the court, hyped as the best anyone had ever seen. The expectations entering college are through the roof.
Once they finally enter the gym for a first-team practice or meeting, they are starring eye-to-eye with 14 other stars of their caliber, sometimes more talented players. Only the best can survive in college and the best of the best get to the NBA. Normally, it’s those who stand out in front of Dick Vitale who do the same in front of David Stern. But in a few instances, good players may struggle or get stuck in limited roles in college before exploding in the NBA. Think Zach Randolph, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Gerald Wallace.
Earlier this week, some of our readers got into it in Smack about whom in this year’s draft could be those guys, the ones who will make the biggest jump as pros. With the lottery going down tonight (8:30 p.m. ET), here are the 10 guys we think can do it this year:
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Iman Shumpert – 6-5 PG, Georgia Tech
He may be the least talented player on this list, but Shumpert has incredible size and strength at the point guard position that will allow him to thrive going forward. His poor shot selection and limitations on offense are not a burden if he can maximize his ability to play game-changing defense.
Terrence Jennings – 6-9 PF, Louisville
Being misused and misunderstood plagued Jennings throughout his college career. One thing is certain about Jennings: when he enters the NBA, no more excuses. He has a great combination of athleticism and skill that will flourish in the wide-open NBA setting if a team will take a chance on him.
Cory Joseph – 6-3 PG, Texas
While at Texas, Joseph seemed very passive and willing to let others take the reins and run the show. Either he was not ready for that responsibility, or perhaps he wasn’t in a setting where his skills were highlighted. No matter the competition, with the ball in his hands, Joseph can be the best point guard on the court. Joseph is quick and crafty, and can make shots. But he wasn’t able to show that early on in college. That might’ve led to the premature decision to enter the 2011 NBA Draft instead of waiting untill next year when he had a chance to be a lock for the first round.
Travis Leslie – 6-4 SG, Georgia
If you want an athlete, you won’t find one better than Leslie in any draft. In transition, Leslie will be filling a wing as one of the most exciting players in the league, so look for him to make numerous appearances on SportsCenter and in the dunk contest. More impressively this past season, he rounded out his game to become a more complete player and will have an instant impact at the next level.
Tobias Harris – 6-8 SF/PF, Tennessee
In sports, short memories are the norm, the “what have you done for me lately” rule. That’s the case with Harris. Very few remember him as the seventh-ranked 2010 recruit (according to Scout.com) or that he was the most consistent player on a mentally unprepared team. Harris played in 34 games this year, scoring in double digits 31 times and snagging at least five rebounds 27 times. As a small forward, he is skilled enough to run offense from the high post and strong enough to get a double-double nightly.