As was previously stated in an earlier article, the Big Ten has had their share of amazing talent. Nine players have been selected number one overall in the NBA draft. It would be an even ten, but it’s hard to explain the whole Jerry Lucas going to the ABA instead of the NBA. All in all, the ‘Legends’ and the ‘Leaders’ end up making great basketball players.
So who will be the next one? If you already look at next season’s draft, there are at least eight or nine players from the Big Ten that could be called on draft night. The more astonishing thing though is that there are at least six of those guys that could end up going in the first round.
Four of the six could’ve gone to the draft this season and would’ve been selected without a question. Between heritage, pure strength, astonishing qualities, and knowledge of the game, the Big Ten has its share of men that will one day be in the NBA. Another two players will begin their B1G careers this upcoming fall. And don’t be mistaken, besides the following two, there are another five or so incoming freshman that’ll impress scouts and rise on draft boards.
Who is he? Many have asked that, but most are mistaken once they get to see this small forward play. Dawson is the best recruit that coach Tom Izzo has convinced to go to Michigan State in a long time. He was ranked number 20 overall this past season by Rivals and was selected as a McDonald’s All-American. In his senior season, Dawson averaged almost 29 points and almost 19 rebounds. If a small forward is able to get to the defensive glass on a consistent basis, the future is going to be bright.
Dawson heralds amazing athleticism and has that physical nature that most small forwards don’t have coming into the college game. His shot and his mechanics to go along with it aren’t perfect, but who better than Izzo to make it work. Dawson must work on his range to become a better player and prospect.
Along with Draymond Green, Keith Appling, and others, Dawson will be welcomed into the lineup with talent around him. He won’t have the pressure that he would’ve had if he had choice some of his other offers including Indiana and Georgetown.
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There might not be a freshman from last year who was more underappreciated coming in than Hardaway Jr. Although he got some major scholarship opportunities, the upper echelon teams shied away from the skinny guard. Florida State and Florida never gave Hardaway the offer that he was looking for, so he got out of Florida and into maize and blue.
Hardaway impressed many during his first season as a Wolverine. He is a very strong shooter, even though he lacks the physical frame. He has talent in his blood as his father had a very productive NBA career. Without Darius Morris, Hardaway will have more time running some point guard along with his usual shooting guard position as he gets adjusted for the big time.
He won’t be floating under the radar anymore as other coaches in the Big Ten get adjusted to the type of game that he brings to the table. As they adjust, so will he. The sky might be the limit for the guard.
A few seasons ago, Mbakwe was heading to Marquette as a highly touted recruit to become the real frontcourt presence that the Golden Eagles needed to succeed. After not receiving enough playing time among other things, he transferred back home to Minnesota. Of course, there were issues along the way, but they are cleared up as Mbakwe heads into his senior season.
The Golden Gopher has the frame to make it into the NBA along with the rebounding skills. He is also improving his shot. The concern with Mbakwe has been his size surprisingly. Most fans won’t realize that Mbakwe is only 6’8", which is a borderline height for a power forward. His skill of rebounding will get him drafting with no questions asked along with the potential that he has.
If he can maintain a low profile his senior season, he is a darkhorse for first-team All Big-Ten. Mbakwe will have to cover players like Sullinger, Zeller, and other big guys because his teammate, Ralph Sampson III is not as physical. Both are incredible shot blockers though.
The former cover singer of Miley Cyrus’s "Party In The USA", Sullinger had the chance to be drafted early in the draft on Thursday, but decided to return to Ohio State right away. He’s a guy that loves college and wants the college experience. With the deep draft that it should be next year, Sullinger may slide because he lacks the toughness in the post.
Sullinger has lost weight each of the past three years as he improves his post moves. Those post moves that he possesses are far greater than most NBA power forwards will ever possess. As Sully showed in his first season at Ohio State, he has a leadership quality that is both serious and comical.
This next season will be a little different for Sullinger as his frontcourt mate will be Deshaun Thomas. They came from the same recruiting class, and will force Sullinger to move into the center position.
Taylor is the point guard that typically comes out of Wisconsin. The Badgers are known for having above average point guards who turn out to be decent prospects. Taylor, along with senior Jon Leuer, led the Badgers back to the NCAA tournament.
He has a quality shot and great ball handling skills to make it into the next level as a backup guard. He is a point guard that can also play some shooting guard if necessary because his shot translates well to the next level.
Taylor does not have perfect size because he is only 6’1", but he is not below average in any major quality for a prospect. His defensive mindset that Bo Ryan forces upon him should make Taylor crave to be that senior leader that can end up being the best guard in all of the Big Ten.
Finally, there is Cody Zeller, brother of North Carolina Tar Heel Tyler Zeller. Zeller is an incoming freshman for Indiana. The elder Zeller is returning for his senior season at UNC, so don’t expect the little Zeller to declare for next year’s draft anytime soon. Cody is the 13th best player coming in this next season and was named a McDonald’s All-American. He was also Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana his senior year.
He is very mobile and athletic, with very similar attributes to his older brother. A terrific jump hook is his main weapon, which is an extremely hard move to guard against if you are the defender. His basketball IQ that he possesses along with the advice given to him by his brother should allow Zeller to become the best Hoosier player since Eric Gordon.