When the 2013 NBA Draft unfolds Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., home court of the NBA New York Nets, only a handful of former Big 12 players are projected among the 60 or so names to be called during the two rounds that constitute the annual draft process for the top level in U.S. professional basketball.
For a number of months leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft, and for much of the 2012-13 college basketball season, shooting guard Ben McLemore of Kansas was projected as a prohibitive No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft. McLemore, who played just one season at Kansas, averaged 15.9 points per game and helped lead the Jayhawks to their eighth consecutive Big 12 conference crown last season and a Sweet Sixteen run in this year’s NCAA Championship.
The one-and-done Jayhawk superstar reportedly did not impress in his scouting combine workouts, however, and his draft stock is believed to have fallen from what it once was. The 6-6 No. 2 guard prospect is still expected to go high in this year’s draft, though, and undoubtedly will be the highest Big 12 player to be selected in the draft.
A year ago, 6-10 Kansas center Thomas Robinson was the first of nine Big 12 players selected in the two rounds of the draft, going fifth overall to the Sacramento Kings. Robinson now is the property of the Houston Rockets.
Two other Big 12 players have a very good chance of being selected in this year’s summer draft of first-year prospects. Seven-foot Jeff Withey has improved markedly in his four seasons at Kansas. His real value is in rebounding shot-blocking and defense. His offensive game got progressively better each year at KU, but he won’t be counted on that much for his scoring ability in the pros, although he had a 13.7 scoring average his senior year in college. Withey’s heighth alone makes him a good pro prospect.
Pierre Jackson from Baylor led the Big 12 last season in scoring with a 19.8 average and is listed as a top-60 prospect in numerous mock drafts. Myck Kabongo, a point guard at Texas who played just 11 games his sophomore season in 2012-13 because of an NCAA suspension also falls in that category, and at one time was considered to be a first-round prospect.
Other Big 12 prospects that could go in the NBA Draft, but most likely will have to play their way into the league as free agents are forwards Amath M’baye and Romero Osby of Oklahoma, point guard Rodney McGruder, who led Kansas State in scoring as a senior last season, and Elijah Johnson of Kansas, who was forced into the No. 1 guard sport his senior at season in Lawrence but is more comfortable and competent as a two-guard.
In the past five years, 40 players from the Big 12 have been drafted by NBA teams, the most of any college conference in the country. Four times in the last five years, seven or more Big 12 players have been selected in the draft, and at least four players have been taken in the draft every year for the past nine seasons. The latter streak will probably continue this year, but I believe it will be a stretch for the Big 12 to contribute up to seven selections in this year’s NBA Draft.
During the Big 12 era (1997-present), Kansas not surprisingly leads all conference schools with 23 players picked in the NBA Draft. Texas is the nearest challenger with 16 draft picks, followed by Iowa State with eight and Oklahoma with seven.
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