By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG The day after the college basketball season ends usually signifies the unofficial start of NBA Draft news beginning to pick up.With that said, a trio of big-name underclassmen, Ben McLemore of Kansas, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Louisville’s Russ Smith, made their intentions known on Tuesday afternoon as all three will enter the NBA Draft on June 27 Meantime, Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott is “not close to a decision” regarding his future, his father and coach, Greg McDermott, told SNY.tv Tuesday. A 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman, McLemore’s intention to leave after one season was assumed for months as he shot up draft boards. His one season in Lawrence saw him average a team-best 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. His scoring average eclipsed the school’s freshman record of 14.6 set by Danny Manning in 1985. The St. Louis native has been as high as the No. 1 overall pick on some boards in what is expected to be a historically weak draft. He currently sits at No. 2 overall according to DraftExpress. “He’s athletic, unselfish and has a good skill set,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv recently. “He’s top 5 easy.” A better gauge of where McLemore will be selected won’t come until the April 28 deadline to declare. Consensus top-3 prospects Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Nerlens Noel of Kentucky have yet to make their intentions known. Despite a torn left ACL, DraftExpress currently has Noel No. 1 overall. McLemore will join Xavier Henry and Josh Selby as star Jayhawks freshmen to leap to the NBA. Henry went 12th overall in 2010, while Selby went 49th overall in 2011. Henry has played in just 45 games this season for the New Orleans Hornets, while Selby has made just 38 NBA appearances in two seasons. McLemore is viewed as having a higher ceiling than both players. Oladipo’s defection to the NBA wasn’t such a foregone conclusion like that of McLemore. The 6-foot-5 junior shot up draft boards this winter after meteoric improvement from his sophomore season, specifically as an elite perimeter defender. DraftExpress currently has Oladipo No. 5 overall after he averaged 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds for the 29-7 Hoosiers, who fell in the Sweet 16 to eventual-East Regional champion Syracuse. Oladipo may not be the only Hoosier heading to the NBA this spring. Sophomore center Cody Zeller, the younger brother of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie big man Tyler Zeller, is considered a high lottery pick, but has yet to announce his intentions. One day after Louisville claimed its third national title and first since 1986, Smith’s father confirmed to multiple outlets that his son, an often-mercurial, even maddening 6-foot junior point guard, would head to the NBA despite little to no assurance right now that he will be picked in the first round. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m not thinking about leaving or this, but it’s up to coach and what coach thinks is best for me,” Smith said on Sunday, one day before he shot just 3-for-16 and scored nine points in the Cardinals’ 82-76 win over Michigan. “I’m always trying to ask my dad what’s the right decision and I’ll ask coach, coach will tell me what’s the right decision.” DraftExpress currently has Smith, a Brooklyn native, at No. 34 overall, which is not only four picks outside the first round, but four picks away from guaranteed money. Apparently, that won’t be a deterrent. “I had a long talk with Russ this morning, he was asking me, I said, ‘I can’t let you go back,'” Smith’s father told C.L. Smith of the The Courier-Journal on Monday afternoon. “You just won a national championship. Back-to-back Big East (Tournaments), back-to-back Final Fours. Come back and do what?” With Smith heading to the NBA Draft and Peyton Siva graduating, the Cardinals will have a very different, albeit talented backcourt next season. Chris Jones, a 5-foot-10 NJCAA Division I first-team All-American out of Northwest Florida State, is expected to take over the point for Siva, while Rick Pitino will also bring in the Hargrave Military Academy duo of 6-foot point guard Terry Rozier and 6-foot-2 shooting guard Anton Gill. Photos: Kansas Athletics, ESPN.com Follow Josh Newman on Twitter
Special to ZAGSBLOG The day after the college basketball season ends usually signifies the unofficial start of NBA Draft news beginning to pick up.