Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bruins Not Lottery-Bound

By Frank Burlison, Staff columnist
Los Angeles Daily News

The deadline for college underclassmen to enter their names into the NBA Draft pool is April 29.

And multiple NBA sources believe that among the names on that list will be two of the players most responsible for UCLA's run to the Final Four last season.

Sophomore guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo could make public their decisions to "test the draft waters" as soon as this week.

Both will are expected to bypass the NBA Pre-Draft Camp (June 6-10 in Orlando, Fla.) and work out for individual teams or small groups of teams, with some of the auditions possibly coming in Southland facilities (including UCLA).

Underclassmen have until June 18 10 days before the draft will be held in New York City to withdraw their names and maintain their NCAA eligibility.

Players automatically forfeit their eligibility if they sign with representation. The underclassmen invited to participate in Orlando (the Pre-Draft Camp used to be held in Chicago) will have all of their expenses paid for by the NBA but still maintain NCAA eligibility if they withdraw before the deadline.

But players (or their families) must pay all expenses, including room, board and transportation, incurred during other workouts with NBA teams up front. Even if expenses fronted by NBA teams are later reimbursed when the player elects to withdraw his name from the draft pool, the player will still face NCAA game suspensions next season.

If "getting into the first round, no matter how late in the first round" is the prime criteria that Farmar and Afflalo use in making their NBA or UCLA decisions, Farmar seems the most likely to keep his name in the pool and forfeit his final two seasons as a Bruin.

Two NBA personnel directors (from Eastern and Western conference franchises) contacted Monday said they tentatively rate Farmar as possibly going in the 25-to-30 range (the final six picks) in the first round, with Afflalo more in the "early to mid-second round" range.

"I think Farmar is quicker than some people believe he is," said the guy from the West. "But he is a little turnover-prone right now and isn't nearly the consistent shooter he needs to be.

"Arron is a very tough kid who plays hard all the time and defends well. But I don't see great 'athleticism' and his shot needs to be a lot more consistent, as well."

NBA employees aren't allowed to comment (at least, for attribution) about college underclassmen.

But the guy from the Western Conference franchise whose opinions are highly thought of by his peers isn't buying the notion, held by some, that UCLA's offensive pace or style somehow hinders the Bruins from demonstrating their potential as NBA prospects.

"(Coach Ben) Howland has done wonders for those (UCLA) kids," he said, emphatically.

"Both would help their (NBA) stock by coming back to UCLA next season."

More college hoops

Mustafa Shakur, a junior point guard at the University of Arizona, announced he was entering the draft pool. Questions about his jump shot and his decision making leave him as, at best, a potential mid-to-late second round pick if he stays in the draft, scouts believe.

Cal sophomore forward Leon Powe hasn't made his intentions public yet. But, if is expected, he enters the draft, he's projected by most NBA talent evaluators to be selected in the 22-to-30 range of the first round. He's undergone three knee injuries since his senior year in high school and the health of that knee will get the once-, twice-and thrice-over by NBA medical personnel.

USC coach Tim Floyd, in Las Vegas for the Mae Fisher/Vision Sports Easter Tournament over the weekend, said he doesn't expect Trojans sophomores Gabriel Pruitt and Nick Young to enter their names into the NBA Draft pool.

Bob Schermerhorn, a former assistant coach at UC Irvine and Arizona State, as well as the head coach at Southern Utah and Riverside City College, is expected to take over at Fullerton College for Dieter Horton, who left for Antelope Valley College after leading the Hornets to a 37-0 record and state championship.

Schermerhorn was at ASU when new Long Beach State athletic director Victor Cegles worked there.

"He's a great hire," Schermerhorn said, while watching games at the high school tourney in Las Vegas on Friday night.

"He's a tremendous fundraiser and someone who all of their coaches will enjoy working with."

High school hoopla

Alice Knox, mother of Dominguez High sophomore guard Brandon Jennings, confirmed Saturday that a transfer by her son to Mouth of the Hill, Va., Oak Hill Academy for next school year is "in the works.

"He will not be returning to Dominguez," she said in Las Vegas, while watching her son play with the eventual 17-and-under division championship-winning Southern California All-Stars in the Easter Tournament.

"I have nothing negative to say about Dominguez or Coach (Russell) Otis. But Oak Hill is a place where he can better focus on basketball and academics without a lot of distractions."

She said she doesn't plan to make the move East with him.

"He's a big boy," she said. "He doesn't need me around all the time."

Otis seemed resigned to the idea that Jennings will not be in a Dons uniform next season.

"I wish him the best of luck," he said Monday. "But Dominguez is going to be Dominguez. This means there will be an opportunity for someone else to step in and play."

Jennings, Daniel Hackett (St. John Bosco), Malik Story (Artesia) and the Mater Dei trio of Taylor King, Kamyron Brown and Alex Jacobsen would have been more than enough firepower to enable the Southern California All-Stars club to be a strong contender for the 17-and-under title in Las Vegas this past week.

But toss the most overwhelming post presence in the national class of 2007, Kevin Love of Lake Oswego (Ore.), into the mix for SCA and it's no wonder it waltzed through the competition, spanking the prep school players and 2006 high school senior-laden H Squad of Los Angeles in the final Sunday at Cox Pavilion at UNLV, 103-86.

Love (a 6-foot-9, 270-pounder who is almost universally expected to enroll at UCLA in the fall of 2007), 6-8 Kyle Singler (Lake Oswego, Ore., High/Portland Elite Legends) and 6-3 Jerryd Bayless (Phoenix St. Mary's/Arizona Magic Blue) were the three best senior-to-be prospects in the event.

Bayless committed to Arizona during his junior season. Singler, who could be rated the top prospect in the class a year from now, lists Arizona, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Washington as the programs he is giving most serious consideration to right now.

But, when the day is done next November, those with decent insight into the situation think he'll sign with either the Blue Devils or the Bruins.

The western-based player whose college stock got the biggest jump start in Las Vegas was 6-7, 215-pound Clarence Trent (Gig Harbor, Wash./Portland Elite Legends).

With Ben Howland (UCLA), Lute Olson (Arizona), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Bill Self (Kansas) looking on in the Durango High girls gymnasium Saturday afternoon mainly to check out and be seen by Singler Trent had an offensive rebound followed by a wind-up-and-palm-it-like-it-was-a-softball, yank-down-the-iron, dunk over the Los Angeles-based TKO squad that would have warranted some serious "SportsCenter" time that night.

And the thing is, Friday afternoon in the boys gym at the same high school the day before the NCAA coaches could watch the action, Trent had a drop-step-and-crank-it-to-the-back-of-his-neck-before-flushing-it-with-two-hands number against the H Squad that was even more startling.

That kind of stuff beats the tarnation out of those contrived "dunking contests," in my humble estimation.

The Compton Magic team won the 15-and-under division of the event.

Among its players were freshmen Sam Ferguson (Mayfair), Joe Burton (West Valley in Hemet) and Justin Hawkins (Woodland Hills Taft).

And California Team Nike, paced by freshmen Travis and David Wear (Mater Dei), Justin Cobbs (Bishop Montgomery) and Roberto Nelson (Santa Barbara), along with sophomore Jamal Trice (Mater Dei), won the 16-and-under division.

(reprinted with permission)



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