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9 SEC’ers Drafted… But With Some Surprises

Three in the first round.  No, five in the first round.  Seven overall.  No, six.

Heading into last night’s draft, the projections of NBA gurus were all over the map when it came to ex-SEC stars.  As it turns out, it was a good night overall, but with some surprises thrown in for good measure.

In the end, only three SEC players went in Round One and that’s where the guaranteed contracts and big bucks are.  So for the other players who left school early and didn’t land in the first round, things are still a bit sketchy.

Here are the first-rounders:

3.  Enes Kanter, C, Kentucky — Utah Jazz (Since Kanter never played in the SEC, it’s still hard to count him as “one of ours.”)

8.  Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky — Detroit Pistons (Expected to be a top five pick, Knight watched six straight teams decide to pass on the point guard position before he was selected.)

19.  Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Tennessee — Charlotte Bobcats, traded to Milwaukee Bucks (Harris’ stock has been as high as 14 and as low as 24… turns out he went right in the middle.)

And that was it for the first round.  Just two players who SEC fans watched last year will definitely, without a doubt be on NBA rosters next year.

In the second round, six more SEC players were tabbed:

37.  Trey Thompkins, PF, Georgia — Los Angeles Clippers (Surprising that he went ahead of teammate Travis Leslie.)

38.  Chandler Parsons, SF, Florida — Houston Rockets (Mock drafts had had his stock creeping into first-round territory.)

45.  Josh Harrellson, C, Kentucky — New Orleans Hornets, traded to New York Knicks (If anyone needed more proof that John Calipari can get guys pro-ready, the selection of Harrellson at 45 is it.)

47.  Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia — Los Angeles Clippers (Leslie was once viewed as a first-round pick.  A disappointing fall.  On the bright side, Dawg fans, if both Leslie and Thompkins make the team you’ll only have to buy one team’s gear to show support.)

52.  Vernon Macklin, PF/C, Florida — Detroit Pistons (Billy Donovan thought Macklin might get drafted.  Looks like the Pistons had a lot of scouts down South last winter.)

53.  DeAndre Liggins, SG, Kentucky — Orlando Magic (Most thought Liggins could have helped himself by staying in school, but he has a family to support.  He got drafted and that’s the first step.  Here’s hoping he sticks.)

The biggest loser on draft night from an SEC perspective would be ex-Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson.  Most felt that he would be a late second-round selection at best and it turns out he wasn’t drafted at all.  Here’s hoping he took a foreign language course or two in high school.

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SEC Projected To Have 4 1st Rounders In NBA Draft

The website has posted their latest mock draft following last night’s NBA lottery.  Their analysts expect to see eight SEC players taken overall in June with four of those players going in the first round.

Here’s where they see the ex-SEC stars going:


3.  Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky — Utah Jazz

8.  Enes Kanter, C, Kentucky — Detroit Pistons (hard to count Kanter as an SEC’er since he never stepped on an SEC court)

14.  Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Tennessee — Houston Rockets

25.  Travis Leslie, SF, Georgia — Boston Celtics


4. (34 overall) Trey Thompkins, PF, Georgia — Washington Wizards

24.  (54 overall) DeAndre Liggins, SG/SF, Kentucky — Cleveland Cavaliers

25.  (55 overall) Scotty Hopson, SG/SF, Tennessee — Boston Celtics

26.  (56 overall) Chandler Parsons, SF, Florida — Los Angeles Lakers

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Could Georgia Benefit From Its NBA Departures?

Georgia’s basketball team will have plenty to replace next season because of the early departures of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA.

Replacing those two players could be easier for Georgia coach Mark Fox because of their departures. Say again? Fox believes that sending two players to the NBA could entice prospects to give Georgia a closer look.

“Here’s how I see it – I think it really shows our player development,” Fox said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think you could point to Travis Leslie’s development; how he improved as a plaer while he has been with us, as well as others in our program. It has been a real plus. I think it shows that kids can realistically pursue their basketball dreams through Georgia.”

Georgia has three signees for the 2011 class. The Bulldogs’ highest-rated signee is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s ranked the nation’s third-best shooting guard by

Georgia is still pursuing former Tennessee signee Kevin Ware, who recently decommitted from Central Florida. Ware is planning to visit Georgia this weekend and Louisville next weekend.

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UGA Adds 4th Hoops Signee

Mark Fox has signed a fourth player for this year’s class at Georgia.  Unfortunately — for those of us who’ll wind up typing his name on occasion — the player is 6-8, 230-pound Montenegro native Nemanja Djurisic.

With Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both now saying they’ll stay in the NBA draft pool, Fox not be finished recruiting just yet.

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Calipari Makes It Sound Like Knight And Jones Might Return To UK

John Calipari opened up to’s Andy Katz yesterday regarding the NBA status of his two star freshmen: Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones.  It’s widely believed that both players will depart Lexington for the pros just as four Wildcat freshmen did a year ago.

But this time around, things could be different.  According to Calipari, the threat of an NBA lockout could play a role in the players’ decisions.

“They probably need to test the water and see where they are before they make a decision,” the coach said.  “They have to find out where they would fall.  But this lockout looms.  Normally I would suggest that you’ve got to do this, but if an agent is paying you (during the lockout) then you’re going to have to pay him back and probably with interest.

“I’m not going to influence them — I’m going to give them my opinion.  These kids have to live with any of these decisions.  I don’t want a player coming back if his heart isn’t into it or thought he should have left.  Daniel Orton chose to leave (last year); no one forced him out the door.”

That sounded a little defensive, didn’t it?  Orton was a first-round pick but he’s not played for the Orlando Magic all season. 

The lockout puts a different spin on the NBA question for underclassmen this year.  For that reason, we were more than a little surprised that Georgia’s Trey Thompkins not only said he would test the NBA waters — like teammate Travis Leslie — but that he was definitely going and would ink with an agent.

Thompkins dealt with injuries this past season and it makes sense that he might want to sign a contract before further hurting his draft stock with more potential collegiate injuries.  But if he’s smart — if all these kids are smart — they’ll wait to the last second before signing with an agent.

The possibility of an NBA lockout is very real.  Sometimes rich people do very dumb things.  Just look at the NFL.

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SEC Headlines – 4/6/11 Part Two

1.  T-Bob Hebert would rather be a starter at center than a backup all across LSU’s line.

2.  Projected starting tailback Spencer Ware is splitting time between football and baseball in Baton Rouge.

3.  Mississippi State is unveiling plans for a new football complex today.

4.  MSU’s defense had a better day of practice yesterday.

5.  Dan Mullen wants “some high-level performance” as spring practice winds down in Starkville.

6.  A pair of redshirt freshmen are vying for starting slots on Ole Miss’ defensive line.

7.  The Rebels worked on their two-minute offense yesterday.

8.  Which freshman will contribute at Florida this fall?

9.  Statues of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow will be unveiled at halftime of Saturday’s spring game.

10.  Here are the rules for UF’s glorified scrimmage.

11.  Georgia’s Trey Thompkins says he’s definitely gone, but Travis Leslie might decide to return.

12.  UGA will have more “interchangeable parts” on defense this season.

13.  Senior center Ben Jones isn’t above an occasional tirade if it helps the Dawgs get “back on the right foot.”

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Former Tennessee Signee Ware Has Plenty Of Options

Basketball prospect Kevin Ware was released from his national letter of intent by Tennessee last week.

That opened up the recruiting for Ware, a shooting guard from Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga. His recruiting has since taken off.

“It’s crazy with all the offers I’m getting, with it being this late in the year,” Ware told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I feel so blessed.”

Those offers have come from Georgia, Louisville, Central Florida and UCLA. He told the AJC that Louisville is currently on top of his list.

Ware has also received offers from Georgetown, Florida State, Baylor and Virginia.

Georgia’s recruitment of Ware could benefit from the decision of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to go pro. Both players announced their intentions on Tuesday, although Leslie has left open the possibility of returning to college.

“That’s big for my decision with those guys leaving,” Ware said. “It definitely opens up a scholarship for me, and if (Leslie) sticks with the NBA, then it would give me the opportunity to compete for more playing time next year.”

Tennessee will still have an opportunity to hold on to Ware. New UT coach Cuonzo Martin plans to visit Ware, along with Memphis Melrose High School signee Chris Jones, on Thursday.

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UGA’s Thompkins To Enter NBA Draft And Sign With Agent

Trey Thompkins turned down the NBA last year and returned to Georgia for his junior season.  But he won’t be back for his senior year.

Thompkins announced this morning that he will be entering the NBA draft and signing with an agent.

“I have spoken with my family and coaches about my situation, and I feel that it’s best for me to forgo my senior season and enter the NBA Draft,” Thompkins said in a UGA press release.

“We certainly appreciate Trey’s contributions to the program and we wish him well in the pursuit of his dreams,” Mark Fox said in the same statemenet.

Thompkins was expected to turn pro.  He was the preseason SEC Player of the Year but injuries cut into his production.  He still earned first-team All-SEC honors for his work this past season.

The NBA-centric website lists Thompkins as the first pick of the second round in its latest mock draft.  The site also lists junior Travis Leslie as the 25th pick of the first round.

Leslie is believed to be planning an announcement — either to stay or go — for tomorrow.

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SEC Headlines – 3/2/11 Part One

1.  Beat Arkansas tonight and Mississippi State clinches the #2 seed in the West — and the bye that comes with it — in next week’s SEC tourney.

2.  That SEC Tournament is the only tournament on the Bulldogs’ minds.

3.  A hobbled Dee Bost is still a star for MSU.

4.  Ole Miss will try to build on its upset of Alabama with a win over Auburn tonight.

5.  If UM wins and Arkansas beats MSU tonight, the Rebels will still have a shot at the #2 seed in the West.

6.  Two of Andy Kennedy’s first signees in Oxford — Zach Graham and Chris Warren — are winding down their Rebel careers.

7.  Florida’s 78-51 rout of Alabama locked up the regular-season SEC title for the Gators.  (Even if Bama and UF finish tied, the Gators beat the Tide head to head.)

8.  It was an extra special Senior Night in Gainesville… for obvious reasons.

9.  Vernon Macklin was unstoppable in the second half last night.

10.  Georgia’s seniors will be set for a Stegeman Coliseum send-off when they host LSU tonight.

11.  The game could also be the last home game for underclassmen stars Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie…

12.  But Leslie’s draft stock isn’t as strong as Thompkins’.

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UGA’s Fox Thinks His Team Should Be Better

This week, Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox stated what many Bulldog fans have been thinking for the past month:  “I think our team should be better.”

Stegeman Coliseum was upgraded last offseason.  Georgia fans were salivating for this season like, well, like Bulldogs.  Two future NBA stars were returning to Athens to “do something special.”  2010-11 was going to be a blast.

Only it hasn’t been.  “There’s no question we’ve let a win or two get away,” Fox said.  “I’m probably my biggest critic.  I think our team should be better.  And that’s my responsibility.”

Hey, it’s not easy to build a basketball program.  Especially in the tougher half of the SEC.  (Would Alabama be 9-2 if they had to play the East’s teams twice each and the West’s teams just once each?)

Georgia still controls its own destiny in terms of the NCAA Tournament.  If the tourney started today, UGA would likely be in it.  Barely.  But win two of the following remaining games — at Tennessee, at Florida, at Alabama — and Fox’s team would probably assure itself of an at-large bid.

So why is a 17-8 season so disappointing at a school that hasn’t seen 19 wins in a season (postseason included) since 2002-03?  Two reasons:

1.  The return of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie raised expectations.

2.  The Dawgs have lost four games to good teams at home.  Tennessee, Florida, Xavier and Vanderbilt have all escaped Athens with victories.  If those losses had come outside of Athens, UGA fans could have chalked them up to the road.  But by dropping games against good foes at home, Fox’s team has sent its fans a message that they’re just not quite ready for primetime.

Fox needs a strong finish.  As we wrote recently, now is the time for him to build up equity that he can fall back on while his program goes through growing pains.  He needs to take advantage of Thompkins and Leslie while they’re still around.

So far, that hasn’t happened enough in 2010-11.  The Dawgs should be better.

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