Every year, we see underclassmen declare for the NBA and go undrafted, when they could have stayed in school and developed their games further.
You can’t fault the young man whose family is in financial hardship and is simply seeking to better his circumstances. But sometimes, ego gets in the way of patience and players who think they’re ready to enter the draft forgo their eligibility, when in reality they probably needed another year. Other times, it’s just bad advice from people around them who sometimes do not have the best interest of these young men in mind.
Here are the top five players from mid-major schools who could have benefitted from another year or two in college.
5. Cedric Happi Noube 6-7 Junior Forward, Virginia Union
OK, OK, Virginia Union isn't a mid-major, but a player declaring early from a Division II school deserves some notice. Happi Noube might be the most puzzling case of a player declaring for the NBA Draft, simply because he is so unknown. He averaged 1.8 points per game in 18 games for Virginia Union two years ago. He, perhaps, may be best known for having the best name of all the early entry candidates.
4. Stefan Jankovic 6-11 Junior Forward, Hawaii
It's not easy to give up living in Hawaii, so hopefully this ultimately pays off for Jankovic, who went undrafted, but signed on with the Heat for Summer League. If not, he may find himself back home in Canada come December, trying to get his car started at 7 a.m. in sub-zero temperatures on his way to the gym.
3. Jermaine Lawrence 6-10 Junior Forward, Manhattan
Lawrence was a former top 20 recruit who under-performed at two schools: Cincinnati and Manhattan. He averaged just 4.8 points per game at Manhattan and eventually bolted after two failed drug tests. His decision to declare may have simply been because there was no other place for him to go.
2. Everybody who declared from UNLV other than Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman
The Runnin' Rebels had a whopping five underclassman declare for this year’s draft, including Derrick Jones, Stephen Zimmerman, Patrick McCaw, Chris Obekpa, and Goodluck Okonoboh. McCaw and Zimmerman getting drafted saves face for the program as a whole, but this is still not a good look. I understand there was some coaching turmoil in the program over the past few months, but it's puzzling that some of these players didn't transfer instead.
1. Tony Anderson 6-9 Freshman Forward, Southeast Missouri State
He averaged five points a game as a backup for a 5-24 team. Apparently the young man had a 3.6 GPA, so it doesn't look like a case of "school just wasn’t my thing." I know guys who are freshman backups at Kentucky get drafted, but not guys from Southeast Missouri State. Anderson was definitely the winner of this year’s Lenny Cooke Award.
It’s such a shame to see so many talented players not realize their full potential when they have the opportunity to continue their education (which can always come in handy if you are a borderline pro) and develop other aspects of their game that will help elevate them into a potential draft pick.