Six players from Big 12 schools are expected to go in the first round of tonight’s 2011 NBA draft. Three of the players expected to be taken in the opening round are from the Kansas Jayhawks, and a fourth is from the Kansas City area. Seven Big 12 performers were first-round selections a year ago.
Junior forward Marcus Morris of Kansas is expected to be one of the first names called by NBA commissioner David Stern from a Big 12 school. His brother Markieff, who formed the other half of the M&M boys at Kansas for the last three years, is also projected as a first-round selection, although much later in the round than his twin brother.
The Big 12 could have as many as three, possibly four, four lottery picks in this year’s draft. The 14 teams that did not make the playoffs in the season just-ended are part of a lottery selection process, which is how the Cleveland Cavaliers were awarded the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Utah Jazz, the Cavaliers again (as a compensation pick) and the Toronto Rapters. In last year’s NBA draft, Cole Aldrich (11) and Xavier Henry (12), both from Kansas, were taken in the first 12 overall picks by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.
There is a good chance, based on the mock drafts published by a number of pro basketball experts, that Marcus Morris, Alec Burks of Colorado and freshman sensation Tristan Thomas of Texas will be taken within the first 14 names called. There is also an outside chance that Thompson’s Longhorn teammate, small forward Jordan Hamilton, or even the other Morris twin, Markieff, could slip in among the lottery selections.
The other Kansas Jayhawk expected to be selected in the opening round is freshman shooting guard Josh Selby, although some experts believe Selby could drop to one of the first several players taken in round two.
Marcus Morris led Kansas in scoring this past season with a 17.2 average to go along with 7.6 rebounds per game. He was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American. His brother, Markieff, led the Big 12 in field-goal percentage and rebounding last season. His 56.9 percent field-goal accuracy rate ranked 12th nationally. Selby, one of the top high-school recruits in the country, played only one year at Kansas, averaging 7.9 points and 2.2 assists per game. Due to eligibility issues, he played in only 26 of the Jayhawks’ 38 games in the 2010-11 season.
Colorado’s Burks led the Big 12 in scoring last season as a sophomore, averaging 20.5 points per contest. He also was among the scoring leaders in the conference his freshman year. He holds the Colorado single-season record for scoring with 779 points, and is believed to be the second best player to play basketball at Colorado since Chauncey Billips, who also left after his sophomore season. Burks is from the Kansas City area and played his high school basketball at Grandview High School. His senior year in high school he was named the Metro Player of the Year.
Hamilton led Texas in scoring this past season, in his second year as a Longhorn, with an 18.6 average, fourth in the Big 12. His teammate Thompson was second in the conference in rebounding (7.8) to Markieff Morris and averaged 13.1 points a game.
Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self, who has had nine Kansas players taken in his eight seasons coaching the Jayhawks, is expected to be in the "Green Room" with the Morris twins at the NBA draft tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Only former Jayhawk coaches Ted Owens (26) and Roy Williams (15) have had more players taken in the NBA draft during their time in Lawrence.