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Too many underclassmen pay for poor advice


I'm not sure about some of the advice that was given to underclassmen in the 2003 NBA draft. I think 100 guys are told they'll be first-round picks when there are only 29 who get the guaranteed dollars by being drafted in the first round (in fact, there were 73 early-entry guys in this draft).

A handful of underclassmen failed to make a wise decision and return to school -- or in the case of high-school standout James Lang, at least go to college. Lang went 48th overall to New Orleans.

Mario Austin
Maurice Williams
I thought Alabama guard Maurice Williams would have learned from the mistake made by former Alabama standout Rod Grizzard, who is now a basketball vagabond, bouncing around from league to league. As I have said before, Williams would have been better suited by returning to Alabama for another season and thereby raising his stock.

That's what Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas and Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson hope to do. They made wise decisions to withdraw their names from the draft and return to college. Williams, meanwhile, didn't hear his name called until pick No. 47 by Utah. At least he'll go to a team that needs point-guard help following the retirement of John Stockton.

Mississippi State forward Mario Austin didn't go in the first round either, settling for the 36th pick (by Chicago). The SEC also lost out on Kentucky forward Marquis Estill, who gave up his potential final year of eligibility and then was passed over in the draft.

Minnesota forward Rick Rickert also made a questionable decision. He will stay in Minnesota after being tabbed by the Timberwolves with the 55th pick. Had he gone back to school, he could have worked on his game and eventually been a first-rounder.

Then there was N.C. State's Josh Powell. He could have played for coach Herb Sendek on a team with the likes of Julius Hodge and contend for an NCAA berth. Instead he put his name in the draft ... and went undrafted. Now he'll try to hook on as a free agent. It's a sad situation.

This seems to happen every year. Hopefully next year's underclassmen will learn.

Kapono Joins LeBron: I loved the Cleveland Cavaliers' second-round pick of Jason Kapono to go along with LeBron James. Kapono gives the Cavaliers a perfect complement to the 18-year-old James as a solid outside shooter with four years of college experience.

Championship Backcourt Back Together: The Washington Wizards' selection of Steve Blake with the 38th pick reunites the Maryland national-title backcourt of Juan Dixon and Blake.

High-School Mistakes: Ndudi Ebi (No. 26) and Kendrick Perkins (No. 27) went late in the first round, but I felt they would have been better off playing next season for Lute Olson at Arizona and John Calipari at Memphis, respectively. They could have been like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh and moved way up in next year's draft. It looks to me like they made a big-time financial mistake.

Undrafted College Players: A number of solid college players went undrafted. Think about this team: Ron Slay of Tennessee, Marcus Hatten of St. John's, Matt Carroll of Notre Dame, LaVell Blanchard of Michigan, Travis Watson of Virginia, Erwin Dudley of Alabama, Kirk Penney of Wisconsin, Hollis Price of Oklahoma, Jason Gardner of Arizona and Justin Hamilton of Florida.

Key Draft Grades: I won't grade every team, but here are some grades I will hand out:
A -- Denver, Chicago, Memphis, Miami, Seattle, Cleveland
B+ -- LA Lakers, Boston, Orlando
B -- New York, Detroit, Washington
C+ -- Utah, Phoenix, Minnesota, Dallas
C -- Portland, Toronto, Golden State

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