The Kansas Jayhawks have enjoyed an incredible year and it will likely be topped off with another top NBA prospect in the 2012 NBA Draft if Thomas Robinson declares for the June event. With his skills and athleticism, Robinson’s draft stock has climbed all season and now he sits among the best overall if he declares. Jason McIntyre now has Robinson going third overall to the New Orleans Hornets.
McIntyre writes, “Total package. Carlos Boozer with more athleticism and toughness. Someone will inevitably say, “the Hornets already took a bum from Kansas – Julian Wright!”
Robinson is taken in this draft after Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Duke’s Austin Rivers, which shows just how far he’s come this season. Bill Self and Danny Manning have done tremendous work with Robinson’s game, but the player potential was there all along as KU fans knew Robinson would have to turn the corner for the Jayhawks to enjoy another conference title.
As for other Jayhawks, Tyshawn Taylor is listed at No. 26 overall to the L.A. Lakers: “The most important player on the Jayhawks has had an up-and-down career, but seems to be finishing strong.”
Big man Jeff Withey goes one pick later to the San Antonio Spurs and McIntyre writes, “Last year at this time, had anyone even heard of Jeff Withey? Before Maui, did anyone even think he’d have NBA potential? I can see him flaming out very early or having a quiet 10-year career.”
Draft Express just released their latest NBA Draft rankings leading up to the late June entry draft and KU's Thomas Robinson has made his way up to the No. 4 position overall, behind only Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Marcus Gilchrist and UConn's Andre Drummond. Robinson was projected to make a major leap on Bill Self's squad before the season, but his ascension into the elite players in college ball has been a revelation all year for Jayhawks fans.
But Robinson is not the only KU product on the list. Point guard Tyshawn Taylor comes in at No. 30 and could be on the fringe of being a first round prospect. A strong NCAA Tournament showing would go a long way toward cementing his draft prospect status. Elijah Johnson comes in at No. 72 and Jeff Withey appears in the Top 100 at No. 92. That last position will likely go up as Withey's game continues to develop. After all, strong defensive big men are simply too rare in the NBA.
No matter how successful a player or team is throughout the college basketball season, the transition to the pro game is another thing entirely. So even though the Missouri Tigers are perhaps the greatest story of the 2011-12 basketball season with their ascension near the top of the rankings under new head coach Frank Haith, Missouri’s stars are still going to have to fight for respect at the next level.
NBA Draft Express has come out with their Top 100 prospects for the 2012 NBA Draft and every Missouri player on the list is potentially a second rounder at best and undrafted at worst. Ricardo Ratliffe comes in highest on the list at No. 57 overall. Marcus Denmon is next at No. 66 and then Kim English is the latest Tiger on the list at No. 84.
It is, of course, still very early in the year and each player can continue to impress scouts as the season goes on and Missouri advances in the postseason. However, it’s clear that Missouri is still fighting for some respect in some ways when it comes to the perception of talent on the team. It’s also a beautiful symbol, however, of a team coming together to play as one without a defined star.
Coming into the year, the buzz around the Kansas Jayhawks concerned the questions with so many impact players leaving for the NBA and how Thomas Robinson and possibly Tyshawn Taylor would fill the holes. Enter the team’s biggest surprise in Jeff Withey. The big man has not only cemented his spot on the roster but Chad Ford also notes that Withey is turning scouts’ heads as a possible first round selection at the pro level:
Coming into the season, KU’s Jeff Withey was a question mark as a Jayhawks starter, let alone an NBA prospect. We were impressed with him early at the Maui Invitational, but over the last month or so, Withey looks like he could be a legitimate NBA first-round prospect this season. In a three-game stretch against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, Withey looked like the best player on the floor for Kansas. First he dropped 25 points on the long, athletic front line of Baylor. Then he followed up that performance with 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks against Oklahoma State and then had a near triple double against Kansas State.
Size rises as we get closer to the draft and more and more scouts seem to be convinced that given Withey’s huge learning curve this year, he’s destined to be a first-round pick, if not this year then next season. He’s moved way up on our Big Board the last few weeks and with a strong run in March, could go even higher.
The one thing you cannot teach in the NBA is size and Withey is committed to getting better as he gains experience. The Jayhawks are reaping the benefits of his shot-blocking and strong defensive presence in the paint to go with his 9.5 points per game. An NBA team could be the next recipient.