Commentary

Underclassmen: To go or not to go?

Originally Published: April 6, 2012
By Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com

With Tuesday's NCAA-imposed deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft quickly approaching, many decisions will be made in the coming days.

We're still waiting on multiple standouts to make final calls on their pro futures. Some appear to be ready to go. And others are on the fence.

It is worth noting that the NBA's official deadline for underclassmen is April 29. So even if a player hasn't signed with an agent yet, he could always announce between Tuesday and April 29 that he's going pro.

Regardless of when they're announced, though, these decisions will determine the national landscape for the 2012-13 season. Here's a look at where we stood as of Friday morning:

WHO'S DECLARED?

Harrison Barnes (North Carolina, So.): As a freshman, Barnes was as acclaimed as any first-year player in the nation. And he delivered with clutch performances late last season. It's not surprising that he's leaving, and he's still likely a first-round pick. But he might have been a better pro prospect before his game was picked apart in his second year.

[+] EnlargeWill Barton
Spruce Derden/US PresswireWill Barton did a little bit of everything for Memphis during the 2011-12 season. He's hoping NBA scouts noticed.

Will Barton (Memphis, So.): Pound for pound, Barton was one of the best players in the country this season. The 6-foot-6, 175-pound standout averaged 18.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg for the Tigers and was one of the most versatile players at the collegiate level.

J'Covan Brown (Texas, Jr.): The Longhorns' prolific scorer will leave Texas for the pros after averaging 20.1 ppg in his third year with the program. He did have turnover issues, though, and shot just 41.7 percent from the field and accounted for 27.7 percent of his team's field goal attempts.

Jared Cunningham (Oregon State, Jr.): The junior shot 33.8 percent from 3 this season, but he still found a way to average 17.9 ppg. He's also talented on the other end of the floor, averaging 2.5 steals per game. Cunningham hasn't signed with an agent, so there's still a chance he could return to Corvallis.

Justin Hamilton (LSU, Jr.): The 7-footer likely won't be drafted, but he's graduating this semester and getting married and can certainly find work overseas if the NBA doesn't work out. Hamilton led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding this season and is a pretty big loss for a Tigers team that returns essentially everyone else.

Moe Harkless (St. John's, Fr.): He was one of the first freshmen to declare for the draft, and he's given NBA scouts a multitude of reasons to consider him. The 6-8 forward averaged 15.3 ppg and 8.6 rpg for the Johnnies and is likely to be taken in the first round.

John Henson (North Carolina, Jr.): The long-armed power forward could have been a lottery pick after his freshman season. He stuck around for two more years to improve and chase a national title. He's a natural shot-blocker who never developed the protypical NBA body for a next-level power forward. But his skill set and versatility are undeniable.

Meyers Leonard (Illinois, So.): The 7-footer showcased his potential in spurts in his two seasons with the Illini. But he's a force inside when he wants to be. He's leaving a program that just fired the coach who recruited him, Bruce Weber, so this is no surprise -- especially since he's at worst likely a mid-first-rounder.

Damian Lillard (Weber State, Jr.): The Weber State star was a pro prospect last season, but a foot injury cost him the majority of the year. This season, the point guard made a mark on the national scene by averaging 24.5 ppg, second in Division I. He should be a first-round lock.

Kendall Marshall (North Carolina, So.): The talented point guard suffered a broken wrist that kept him out of his team's Sweet 16 win over Ohio and Elite Eight loss to Kansas, which only showed how important he was to UNC. With him, the Tar Heels might have won the national title. He's a savvy floor leader with a mature game.

C.J. McCollum (Lehigh, Jr.): McCollum was one of the most prolific scorers in the country this season, averaging 21.9 ppg. The 6-3 guard scored 30 points in the Mountain Hawks' upset over Duke in the Big Dance. Pretty cool to see potential first-round picks from Weber State and Lehigh.

Fab Melo (Syracuse, So.): His time at Syracuse ended in controversy. He missed games during the season because of academic issues and then the university suspended the big man before the NCAA tournament. But the sophomore is a talented defender who could make an immediate impact on the next level.

Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State, Jr.): No surprise here. The 6-11 forward made the most of his one season at Mississippi State after transferring from UTEP. He averaged 16.4 ppg and 10.5 rpg for a Bulldogs squad that underperformed, losing to UMass in the first round of the NIT. But Moultrie scored 34 that night. He's ready.

Austin Rivers (Duke, Fr.): Rivers wasn't expect to stay beyond a year even though he never really found a position during his short time at Duke. But the 6-4 combo guard averaged 15.5 ppg. He has next-level speed and agility.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Ross
AP Photo/Jason RedmondUW's Terrence Ross had an up-and-down season, but is projected to be a first-round pick.

Terrence Ross (Washington, So.): Throughout the regular season, the 6-6 guard wasn't a lock to leave. And then the NIT happened. Ross scored 23, 32, 24 and 21 points in Washington's four NIT games and elevated his stock. He's a big, explosive guard. And his finish to the 2011-12 campaign proved it. But his inconsistency made many wonder if he should stay another year.

Victor Rudd (South Florida, So.): The 6-7 forward surprised many when he declared for the draft after averaging just 8.7 ppg this season. But this appears to be a fact-finding mission. He's stated that he doesn't plan to hire an agent.

Renardo Sidney (Mississippi State, Jr.): I should probably enter the draft, too. Sidney was a better prospect in high school than he is now. At Mississippi State, he had a series of off-court and conditioning issues. His 9.7 ppg and 5.2 rpg this season were down from his freshman campaign and aren't exactly lottery numbers. They might not even be draftable numbers. What a mess.

Jared Sullinger (Ohio State, So.): The Ohio State sophomore announced his intentions last week. His stock is not as high as it was when he finished his freshman season as a consensus first-team All-America power forward, mainly because scouts aren't really sure what position he fits into. But he's still a likely lottery pick.

Hollis Thompson (Georgetown, Jr.): Thompson shoots. That's the bulk of his game. And he does it well. Georgetown's third-year guard hit 43 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He had 23 points in the Hoyas' loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA tournament. Probably didn't hurt his stock.

Dion Waiters (Syracuse, So.): Syracuse had one of the nation's top transition offenses during the 2011-12 season. Waiters finished a chunk of those fast-break opportunities. The explosive guard was vital for an Orange squad that reached the Elite Eight without Fab Melo.

Maalik Wayns (Villanova, Jr.): Nova's star didn't gain more exposure because his team was so bad this season (5-13 in the Big East). But he averaged 17.6 ppg on that bad team. Is he an NBA point guard, though?

Royce White (Iowa State, Jr.): White led Iowa State to the third round of the NCAA tournament and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in his first year of college basketball. He left Minnesota in 2010 and redshirted last season, but he made the most of his brief stay. He led the Cyclones in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

Tony Wroten Jr. (Washington, Fr.): He's a gigantic point guard (6-5) with the kind of explosiveness and athleticism that made him a force at the collegiate level. But his potential (16.0 ppg) has been hampered by concerns about his tendency to lose control (3.8 turnovers per game).

B.J. Young (Arkansas, Fr.): The 6-3 guard averaged 15.3 ppg in his first season at Arkansas. He added 1.2 steals per game and a 41 percent clip from the 3-point line. Important to note that Young hasn't signed with an agent, so this is one to keep an eye on.

WHO'S PROBABLY GONE?

Bradley Beal (Florida, Fr.): Beal was a stud in the NCAA tournament. Who could blame him for leaving after leading the Gators to the Elite Eight? His teammate, Kenny Boynton, announced Thursday that he will stay. Gators fans are probably dreaming of Beal joining Boynton and Patric Young next season. Emphasis on the word "dreaming." As a likely top-10 pick, it'd be fairly shocking if he decided to stay.

Anthony Davis (Kentucky, Fr.): After winning Most Outstanding Player honors following his team's win over Kansas in the national title game, Davis said he'd take his time to make a decision about going pro. At least it's not a hard decision. He'll be the No. 1 pick if and when he leaves. Can't imagine that won't be this month.

Perry Jones III (Baylor, So.): Another year at Baylor didn't appear to help the forward. His potential was evident, however, all season. He's 6-11 and can pretty much do anything he wants on the floor and he can play multiple positions. But his toughness has been questioned. Hard to think another year in college helps his stock, though.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Jones
AP Photo/Mary Ann ChastainTerrence Jones surprised some by returning for his sophomore season. Even more stunning would be a return for his junior season.

Terrence Jones (Kentucky, So.): The UK standout returned despite his status as a likely lottery pick had he entered last summer's draft. But the NBA lockout changed a lot of plans. He's still a solid first-round pick, especially after helping the Wildcats win a national title.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky, Fr.): Davis' teammate might be the No. 2 pick in the draft. The strong young forward is one of the most talented players in the country. He can guard and play multiple positions. This decision should be a no-brainer.

Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut, So.): One would think the fact that the NCAA denied UConn's final appeal to compete in the postseason following the 2012-13 season will contribute to Lamb's decision, one that's expected to involve a leap to the next level. The talented sophomore guard's productive second-year (17.7 ppg) was overshadowed by the Huskies' general underperformance, but he's a likely lottery pick. Why would he stay?

C.J. Leslie (NC State, So.): With Rodney Purvis joining the fold next season, North Carolina State could compete for a national title if everyone returns. But the 6-8 Leslie is a key component in those projections. He demonstrated his pro potential by leading the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16.

Tony Mitchell (North Texas, Fr.): The 6-8 standout led the Mean Green to the Sun Belt tournament title game. The one-time Missouri commit averaged 14.7 ppg and 10.3 rpg in his first year at North Texas. Might be his only one.

Mason Plumlee (Duke, Jr.): He's reportedly exploring his options after finishing the year with third-team All-ACC honors. The 6-10 forward averaged 11.1 ppg and 9.2 rpg this season for the Blue Devils, who could really use his return.

Thomas Robinson (Kansas, Jr.): He didn't get a ring, but the Kansas star led the Jayhawks to the national title game. He had 18 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game and finished second in the national POY race. The 6-9 forward has no reason to return to Kansas.

Josh Smith (UCLA, So.): According to ESPN's Chad Ford, Smith is in the "one foot in the door" group. The 6-10, 300-pound prospect averaged 9.9 ppg and 4.9 for the Bruins this season and his numbers were down across the board. Still, enough teams might be willing to take a chance on a kid who clearly has the talent. We'll see.

WHO'S ON THE FENCE?

Trey Burke (Michigan, Fr.): He's seriously considering a move, but his dad claims no decision has been made. Michigan could contend for a national title if Burke returns for his sophomore season. Without him, the Wolverines will have a huge void to fill. His decision will ultimately have a major impact on the 2012-13 season and UM's potential for next season.

Andre Drummond (UConn, Fr.): The freshman will be a top-5 pick if he decides to leave. And like Lamb, the fact that the Huskies won't play in next year's NCAA tournament could solidify Drummond's future. At this point, it's hard to foresee why he would remain in Storrs.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan, So.): Again, Michigan could have something special next season if its stars return. Hardaway (14.6 ppg), like Burke, could make the move to the next level. With Mitch McGary coming to town, however, the Wolverines would boast one of the top trios in the nation.

John Jenkins (Vanderbilt, Jr.): After averaging 19.9 ppg and shooting 44 percent from the 3-point line, Jenkins is weighing a move to pros. The 6-4 guard isn't exactly an elite athlete, but he did help the Commodores win the SEC tournament and his stock isn't likely to get much higher with another year in college.

Doron Lamb (Kentucky, So.): The second-year man scored 22 points in the national title game. John Calipari said the 2-guard could be a first-round pick. He could also help Kentucky win its second consecutive title if he comes back. Tough call.

[+] EnlargeQuincy Miller
Scott Sewell/US PresswireWill Quincy Miller follow the path of teammate Perry Jones III and return to school after a solid freshman campaign?

Quincy Miller (Baylor, Fr.): Miller was certainly on a list of possible one-and-dones when he joined Baylor as a freshman this season. His debut was promising (10.6 ppg) and Baylor could be a Final Four team if he returns. PJ3 surprised many with his return last offseason. Will Miller do the same?

Le'Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State, Fr.): Nash certainly had his moments as a freshman -- his 27 points helped OSU upset No. 2 Missouri -- but it seems like he's a guy who could use another year of college to develop his often-inconsistent game.

Otto Porter (Georgetown, Fr.): Porter didn't come out of nowhere by any means, but even the most loyal of Hoyas fans couldn't have projected he'd be so productive in so many areas as a freshman. It at least puts him in the discussion to make the leap, but Porter is likely to return to Georgetown.

Andre Roberson (Colorado, So.): Roberson is likely to stay in school, but it's worth noting that he clearly outplayed Perry Jones III in their head-to-head matchup in the NCAA tournament. If he returns, look for the Buffaloes to again make noise in the Pac-12.

Marquis Teague (Kentucky, Fr.): Compared to some of his fellow UK freshmen, it seems less likely that Teague will leave. But he played well during Kentucky's run to a national championship. And he improved from game to game.

Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State, So.): Had Thomas avoided his sloppy, nine-point effort in Ohio State's Final Four loss to Kansas, he might be a lock to enter the draft. But finishing that way may persuade him to stay. Still, you can't ignore his production throughout the NCAA tournament. Thomas, not Sullinger, was Ohio State's best player prior to New Orleans. If he comes back for another season, OSU could start the year as a top-5 team in the preseason polls.

Christian Watford (Indiana, Jr.): The forward could come back for another year and help IU contend for a national championship. If the Hoosiers get Cody Zeller and Watford back -- to go along with a talented recruiting class -- they could start the year as the preseason favorites to win the national title. But the quick withdrawal deadline and a star performance in the NCAA tournament (he had 27 points against Kentucky in the Sweet 16) might sway him to turn pro.

Jeff Withey (Kansas, Jr.): Withey going pro early would've been unthinkable for most of the season, but after setting a record for blocked shots in an NCAA tournament, why would he not at least consider it? He is a 7-footer, after all. That still means something. Interesting decision here.

Cody Zeller (Indiana, Fr.): If Zeller comes back for another year, Indiana could go from a revival this season to a revolution. Tom Crean has a team that's built for a national championship run. But he needs his star forward and Watford to return to get there.

WHO'S COMING BACK?

Kenny Boynton (Florida, Jr.)
Isaiah Canaan (Murray State, Jr.)
Myck Kabongo (Texas, Fr.)
James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina, Fr.)
Doug McDermott (Creighton, So.)
Mike Moser (UNLV, So.)
Patric Young (Florida, So.)