Monday, June 24, 2002

ACC In the NBA Draft

Originally Posted on

With the NBA draft coming up this Wednesday, it’s time to review the prospects of players coming out of the ACC. It is a bumper crop, to say the least!

Three conference players are sure bets to become lottery picks (#1-13), as many as three more could be drafted later in the first round, and several others could go in the second round. This could be one of the stronger representations the ACC has ever had in the NBA draft.
The locks for the lottery are Duke’s Jay (don’t call me Jason, I’m not an accused murderer or a punk) Williams and Mike (hell no, I won’t stay) Dunleavy and Maryland’s Chris (don’t ask me about that &@#) Wilcox.

Along with fellow early entries Roger Mason of Virginia and Carlos Boozer of Duke, these players likely would have made up the all-ACC team in 2002-03. I’ll be talking a lot about the impact of their departure on the ACC in future columns.

It seems Jason Williams is a lock to be drafted by the Chicago Bulls, where he could lose as many games in a few weeks as he did in three years at Duke. Some scouts have been concerned about his height, or lack of such. It seems he was measured a lot closer to 6’0" than his listed 6’2" (imagine that). I think Williams is underrated as an athlete, possessing surprising strength and great hops. I think he will become a star, although not right away.

Dunleavy has been used as the poster child for how early entries to the NBA is leading to the ruination of college basketball. No less of an authority than Billy Packer recently said that Dunleavy’s departure for the NBA would be "the end of college basketball as we know it."
Take a chill pill, Bill!

He could make a lot better case against players leaving college early for the pros if he pointed to how it has hurt the pro game. Younger players with much poorer fundamentals have greatly reduced the quality of play in the NBA over the past few years. Let’s face it--many of the games are nearly unwatchable.

Could Packer have an agenda with his comment? Could he be concerned that fewer marquee players at nationally known schools like Duke could hurt the marketability of the college game and the CBS television ratings? Wouldn’t that hurt Packer in the pocket book? Just wondering.

Dunleavy is more ready to play in the NBA and more talented than most of the players coming out. It looks like Golden State will make him the third pick in the draft (sort of like sailing a fancy yacht into the Bermuda Triangle) and make him a very wealthy man. As a bonus, the rumors of a package deal with his dad coaching the Warriors will be entertaining, and basketball fans need some entertainment to get through the summer.

The most likely scenario involving Chris Wilcox has him being selected with the seventh pick by New York. I can’t think of a worse situation for Wilcox to deal with. He possesses tremendous physical gifts, and there is no reasonable doubt that he has all the tools to succeed in the NBA.
As he demonstrated in the way he handled his departure from Maryland (trying to sneak out of his dorm), he is a very immature young man. He hired Rock Newman, an infamous boxing promoter, as his agent, for God’s sake!

For Wilcox to get thrown into the media glare of New York and into a situation where he will be counted on to fill the Knicks’ glaring need for a low-post presence on both ends of the court is a recipe for disaster.

I don’t think Wilcox is a bad kid, but he is very much a kid. New York is a tough enough town for grown-ups. For his sake, I hope he slides down to Phoenix at #9. After all, joining a team with Stephan Marbury and Penny Hardaway means he won’t be burdened with having the ball very much.

Other potential first round picks are Boozer, Mason, and Maryland’s Juan Dixon.

There is a wide range of opinions regarding Boozer. He is widely accepted as an effective low-post player, but there are questions about his athleticism and ability to play away from the basket.

I don’t understand the questions about his athleticism. He is a chiseled 6’9" 270 pounds who can get up and down the floor very well.

Boozer’s game away from the basket is a mystery. He never had to wander very far at Duke with all of the perimeter firepower they always had. The fact that he made 75% of his free throws last season give some hope that he could be effective from 15 feet away. I think he will become a very effective power forward in the NBA if he can get a bit of a mean streak and work harder as a rebounder.

Mason is a talented player who, at 6’5", should have the size to be a solid wing guard in the NBA. He has exceptional range on his shot and should have no problem knocking down 3-pointers in the League.

Mason played some point guard the past two seasons at Virginia due to the injuries to Majestic Mapp, but I don’t think he has the handle or the quickness to be particularly effective running point in the pros. He could start out his pro career as a dangerous sharpshooter to bring off the bench and develop from there.

How can the best player in the 2002 NCAA post-season be as lightly regarded as Juan Dixon has been by NBA scouts? Did they watch any of the games? I’m not trying to say Dixon should be a lottery pick (although I’ve seen stupider things in these drafts), but to see players like Frank Williams, Kareem Rush, Marcus Haslip, Ron Grizzard, and Steve Logan projected ahead of Dixon in the first round is laughable. I’d actually laugh if that fact wouldn’t cost Dixon money
in his first contract.

Yes, I know Dixon is thin. How thin is he? I just wrapped up my kitchen trash bag with a twist-tie that was wider than he is. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. Dixon is deceptively strong and has lightning quickness. He led the ACC in steals and free throw shooting, was second in scoring, and fourth in three-point shooting. He led the nation in toughness and heart, but pro scouts can’t put a number on that, so they tend to underrate it’s importance if not ignore it entirely.

Among the other draft eligible ACC players are Lonny Baxter and Byron Mouton from Maryland, Delvon Arrington and David Anderson from Florida State, Tony Akins of Georgia Tech, Jason Capel and Kris Lang from North Carolina, Anthony Grundy from NC State, Chris Williams and Adam Hall from Virginia, and Darius Songaila and Craig Dawson from Wake Forest.

Of this group, I think Songaila is the best pro prospect. He is already a polished low-post player, can knock down a 15-foot shot, and can run the floor well for a 6’9", 250 pound player. His Achilles heel at Wake Forest was his propensity to get into foul trouble. The more physical nature of the NBA could be more to his liking. He should go early in the second round.

The star of the recent Chicago pre-draft camp was Lonny Baxter, who led all players in both scoring and rebounding. That performance propelled Baxter onto most mock drafts for the first time. He is still viewed at a potential ‘tweener; too short to play center, not quick enough to play forward. His athleticism is vastly underrated, and I would be surprised not to see him on an NBA roster next season.

I doubt any of the other players listed above will be drafted, but several of them could make an NBA roster or, more likely, play professionally overseas next season. I think Mouton’s all-around game and intangibles and Lang’s low post skills (if he can stay healthy for once) are the most likely candidates to play in the League next season.

ACC seniors from last year who probably need to get on with their life’s work are Jamar McKnight from Clemson, Matt Christiansen from Duke, Monte Cummings and Antwuan Dixon from Florida State, Archie Miller from NC State, and Broderick Hicks, Ervin Murray, and Antwan Scott from Wake Forest.

I’m not saying these guys were bad players or that they will never be able to make a buck playing basketball somewhere. I am saying, however, that they won’t see the light of day in the NBA.

For those of you reading "The CourtMaster" column for the first time, thanks for checking it out. I always want to know what you think, either on this site’s message board or by e-mail at I always do my best to respond to both as soon as possible.

Monday, June 17, 2002

The CourtMaster Rules on the Clemson Tigers

Originally Posted on

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session at! I am delighted that my ACC basketball columns will be carried here this season. By way of introduction to you Tiger fans who have not followed my work over the past three seasons, I wanted to rule on my views of the Clemson basketball program.

First, let’s look at the positives.

Returning to lead the Tigers next year is Ed Scott, a senior who will be one of the best all-around players in the ACC. Last season, Scott finished third in the nation in assists, pulled down the most rebounds for a Clemson guard in 42 years, and began establishing himself as a scoring threat. He dropped 30 points on Wake Forest in the incredible double-overtime victory at LittleJohn Coliseum, and scored a career-high 36 against Florida State.

Scott’s experience and leadership will be the foundation for any hopes of success the Tigers have next season. Being a degreed accountant myself, I’ve got to love a guy like Scott, who says in his official school bio that accounting is the most interesting subject he has taken at Clemson. You go, Ed!

Another strength of the team should be the inside game with the tandem of Chris Hobbs and Ray Henderson. Hobbs, a 6’7” 245 lb. junior, grew up in Chapel Hill but was not recruited by the Tar Heels (think they could have used him last year?). He made a high percentage of shots from the floor and had some strong rebounding games.

Henderson, a 6’8” 250 lb. senior, gives the Tigers a strong tag-team duo in the paint. He was the second leading rebounder in the ACC last season. Henderson also showed flashes of becoming a shot-blocking threat. I’m sure Coach Shyatt will want him to be more aggressive on the offensive end this season.

With a senior and two juniors in the starting lineup, Clemson will be one of the more experienced teams in the ACC this season. Sophomores Chey Christie and Sherrod Ford will also be counted on to make larger contributions this season.

Three issues must be dealt with effectively for this team to be competitive in 2002-03--consistency, chemistry, and coaching.

Last season, Tiger fans never knew which team would show up for a game, a hungry, competitive bunch that would fight until the final buzzer, or a disoriented squad that looked like they had just been recruited out of the student section of the stands.

Losses to Winthrop and Yale cast a dark cloud over last season that never truly disappeared. How can an ACC team lose to Winthrop and Yale??!!

Six days after the Yale debacle, Clemson knocked off the #5 team in the nation at the time when they beat Virginia 68-52. Instead of building up steam and plowing through the ACC, the Tigers had a train wreck in their next game at Wake Forest. The 96-55 humiliation they suffered there began an eight-game losing streak that buried Clemson at the bottom of the conference.

The Tigers broke that streak by winning one of the most exciting games played in the nation last season, a 118-115 double-overtime thriller against Wake Forest. They followed that up by embarrassing themselves with an 83-54 loss at NC State.

Chemistry came up as an issue late in the season, particularly after a blowout loss to North Carolina (the same team that lost to Hampton, Davidson, and nearly to Binghamton). The players clearly were not all on the same page, a major factor in the defections of second-leading scorer Tony Stockman and reserve Dwon Clifton.

The consistency and chemistry issues bring the coaching situation under what will probably be excruciating scrutiny. Let me say that I love Larry Shyatt. I’ll never forget meeting him two years ago at the ACC’s Operation Basketball pre-season media gathering. He came up to the table of reporters where I was stationed and began his remarks with “Gentlemen, prepare to be dazzled!”

Shyatt’s sense of humor and his sincerity made a lasting impression. He seemed like the kind of guy I would love to have as a next-door neighbor to swap stories with over the fence.

The jury is still out on his ability to return Clemson basketball to respectability. He has a number of factors working against him.

The basketball tradition at Clemson is not a good one. The Tigers have won only one ACC regular season championship in 49 years. They have NEVER won the conference tournament, and have never advanced to the Final Four (the only ACC school not to). The school has produced a number of successful NBA players, but none under Shyatt.

Clemson is tucked in the heart of southern football country. So is Georgia Tech and Florida, but they have made trips to the Final Four. Florida State’s new coach, Leonard Hamilton, has succeeded at one football school, Miami, and is working on reviving the Seminoles’ hoops program in the shadow of Bobby Bowden’s gridiron success.

The Tigers’ football and basketball programs have had scandals in their history under Danny Ford and Tates Locke respectively. Maryland was able to bounce back from the horrific probation the basketball team endured because of the transgressions of Gary Williams’ predecessor, Bob Wade.

The basketball facilities at Clemson have lagged behind some other programs, but other ACC schools have fared well without lavish facilities. Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Maryland all enjoyed success before upgrading their practice areas and/or arenas.

The Tigers will have to play most, and probably all, of their “home” games at the 5,000 seat Anderson Civic Center while renovations are completed at LittleJohn Coliseum. This intimate environment could be a boost to Clemson’s home court advantage in some ways, but it still won’t be the same at LittleJohn, which can be a tough place for a visiting team to play.

In other words, there are problems, but not so large that they are insurmountable.

Shyatt has not had much success recruiting blue-chip high school players, having to rely on sleepers like Ed Scott or players downgraded because of injury like Chris Hobbs. Competing against ACC schools that regularly attract top-100 players (Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech all have classes ranked in the top 20 nationally this year), that’s like coming up to bat with an 0-2 count before the pitcher has even wound up.

Although the Tigers have a solid nucleus to build on with Scott, Hobbs, and Henderson, it does not appear they have enough talent to be competitive again this year in the ACC.

New Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips needs a strong revenue stream from the basketball program to fund all of the athletic facility construction in progress on campus. Losing equals reduced revenue.

Barring events this season bordering on a miracle, it will be time for Phillips to take Clemson basketball in a different direction with a new coach.

I’d still love to have Shyatt as a neighbor, even if he is unemployed.

Let me know what you think on the message board or by e-mail at