Top NBA prospects in the South Region
It's March Madness, baby! It's the big stage for some of college basketball's best players to show off their games. NBA scouts and general managers will be out in force the next few weeks scouting everyone in the Big Dance.
Rightly or wrongly, a great March can really help a player's stock. NBA GMs, the real decision-makers come draft time, are in attendance and tend to be swayed by what they see on the big stage.
Last year, Syracuse's Dion Waiters boosted his stock with a few big tourney performances. In 2011, UConn's Kemba Walker and Arizona's Derrick Williams improved their stocks with great runs. In 2010, Butler's Gordon Hayward, Ekpe Udoh and Jordan Crawford helped their causes with terrific tournament performances. In 2009, Tyreke Evans and Jonny Flynn rode strong tournament performances to high lottery picks. In 2008, Derrick Rose moved past Michael Beasley on most NBA teams' boards with an excellent performance and players such as Russell Westbrook and Brandon Rush helped themselves with strong tournament play, as well.
In years past, Florida's Al Horford and Joakim Noah, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, Illinois' Deron Williams, Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Marquette's Dwyane Wade, Maryland's Chris Wilcox, Arizona's Richard Jefferson, Florida's Mike Miller, Miami (Ohio)'s Wally Szczerbiak and Connecticut's Richard Hamilton helped their draft position significantly in March.
Who will take advantage of the national stage in this year's NCAA tournament to supercharge his draft stock?
For the second year in a row, the South Region has an unusually high number of NBA draft prospects in comparison to the other regions. By our count, it has four potential lottery picks and another eight potential first-rounders. In other words, it's loaded.
ESPN.com has talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs over the course of the season to give you a look at the top NBA prospects they'll be watching in each NCAA region.
Lottery pick: Ben McLemore, SG, Fr.
First-rounder: Jeff Withey, C, Sr.
Potential second-rounders: Elijah Johnson, G, Sr.; Kevin Young, F, Sr.
Wait 'til next year: Perry Ellis, F, Fr., Jamari Traylor, F, Fr.
McLemore currently sits atop our Big Board, but his hold on the top spot has been tenuous. He is an elite shooter and a terrific athlete, but he can disappear for long stretches and doesn't really create well for himself off the dribble. KU's success in the tourney will be, in large part, based on whether Johnson and Naadir Tharpe can get him involved.
Withey isn't a great offensive player, but he'll be a first-rounder based entirely on his defensive ability and size. Johnson and Young are fringe second-round picks, but both could get a boost with a great tournament. A potential round of 32 matchup against North Carolina could put as many as 12 NBA draft prospects in the same game together.
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