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Scott Howard-Cooper

Lockout won't stop team execs from scouting colleges

Posted Oct 14 2011 9:59AM

College basketball, at least, begins late Friday night -- or, technically, the first tick of Saturday morning -- with Midnight Madness. It is the typical start of another season at the NCAA level, but it's anything but typical for NBA front offices that will scout college players.

For one, the prospects heading toward June 2012 represent a U-turn from a year ago, from what was generally considered a weak class to a collection with much greater star power. For another, pro personnel departments finally get to ... you know, do something.

Barred by the lockout from conducting much offseason business, NBA executives have an outlet at last. In fact, 2011-12 could turn into the most heavily scouted college season ever, depending on the length of the work stoppage and financial constraints because of the lockout.

"Teams, instead of one person at a (college) game, there could be two," one front-office veteran said. "They'll want to do something. There's only so much sitting around you can do."

Or as another put it:

"At least we can have something that feels like a normal semblance."

If the lockout goes long enough, one talent evaluator predicted, we could see NBA coaches scouting college games.

"Because," he said, "why not?"

Other draft issues as the college season gets under way:

• NBA teams are anxious for an early look at the slimmed-down Jared Sullinger, the Ohio State power forward who had a good chance to go in the top five but instead returned to school. Sullinger is boasting about an improved physique and the pros are interested if it translates into better endurance and quickness, and whether he can hold his position despite being lighter.

Until in-person evaluations, one exec said in praising Sullinger's approach, "It sends a message that he's a worker and accepts responsibility to address the things that can make him better."

Sullinger will be an intriguing study. He could improve this season as a sophomore and get better reviews from the pros... and still miss the top five in June 2012 because the talent pool has improved even more.

• Another interesting early read: Baylor forward Quincy Miller, a freshman with lottery potential but coming off a torn knee ligament that ruined his final high school season in High Point, N.C.

• North Carolina at Kentucky, Dec. 3. One historic venue, two storied programs, five or six possible lottery picks, some going head-to-head. Dozens of NBA people scouting.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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