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Chris Dortch

Thomas Robinson
Opposing players have had their hands full with Kansas' Thomas Robinson.
Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics

College ranks filled with skilled big men waiting for Draft


Posted Feb 15 2012 10:09AM

If you're an NBA general manager looking for a big man in the NBA Draft, chances are good you're going to be happy the night of June 28. Quality bigs abound.

The considerable game of Kentucky's Anthony Davis has already been discussed in this space, and other than to say that his recent play is creating more and more converts to the belief he can pull off the hat trick of being chosen player of the year, freshman of the year and defensive player of the year, we'll move quickly on and take a look at some other post players.

Where to begin? How about with Thomas Robinson of Kansas? If heart could be bottled and sold, Robinson, a 6-foot-10, 237-pound junior, wouldn't ever have to work for a living. He's got that intangible quality in abundant supply, as evidenced last season when unimaginable tragedy struck -- in less than a month, his grandmother, grandfather and mother all passed away, the latter of a heart attack at just 37 - leaving him as sole guardian of his younger sister.

Shaken but not broken, Robinson quickly returned to the court, resisted the urge to try and follow his Kansas teammates, the Morris twins, to the NBA, and is having a breakout season. Many college hoops pundits believe Robinson (17.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg), not Davis, will be chosen the player of the year. He's tough, physical and a relentless rebounder, all qualities that will ensure his quick assimilation to the next level.

Connecticut freshman Andre Drummond has said he plans on returning to school, and given his inconsistency this season, that wouldn't be the worst idea. NBA scouts are well aware of that inconsistency, but they also know that for a man 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, he possesses rare speed and quickness to go with strength. He's a willing defender and coachable, too.

If Drummond reverses field and decides to enter the Draft, he's a top five pick.

Speaking of inconsistency, Baylor sophomore Perry Jones has baffled scouts with his play at times. He scored four points against West Virginia and eight against Mississippi State in consecutive marquee matchups in December. More recently, Jones followed a late-January and early-February four-game stretch during which he averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds and shot 57 percent from the field with a five-point, three-rebound effort in a homecourt loss to Kansas.

Still, at 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds, Jones is an elite athlete who has an inside-outside game. If he gets the urge to dominate, Jones has the ability.

Ohio State's Jared Sullinger couldn't be more unlike Drummond or Jones. His game is below the rim, and that's OK with him. At 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, the sophomore has the width and strength to bury opponents and get deep post position, from which he often converts. He's shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 17.4 points and 9.0 boards.

Thought he's a prototypical, old-school post man, Sullinger has the ability to step outside his office and do a little damage; he's shooting 45 percent (9 of 20) from 3-point range.

North Carolina hasn't been as dominant this season as many experts believe it would, but that's no fault of the Tar Heels' tandem of big men, 6-foot-10 John Henson and 7-foot Tyler Zeller. Both average double-doubles, both can block shots and both can convert in the paint. Henson needs to learn how to make free throws, and he can use a bit more meat on his bones (210 pounds), but he's an athlete along the lines of Perry Jones.

Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard is young, but at 7-foot and 240 pounds, he's attracted the attention of scouts who have been impressed with his rapid improvement. A year ago he averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds; this season, 13.5 and 7.8. Leonard, who has good speed and quickness, competes on both ends of the floor.

Mississippi State junior Arnett Moultrie might be the most valuable transfer in the country this season. He began his career at UTEP, and after a redshirt season has fit in seamlessly with his new team. Moultrie averages a double-double and is one of the best rebounders in traffic in the country.

The best thing about Moultrie is his work ethic. He's one of those guys who shows up to practice early and stays late, one reason he's drastically improved his free-throw percentage and become more of a face-up shooting threat this season.

Throughout his career, Duke junior Mason Plumlee has steadily increased his contributions, to the point he's been projected as a mid first-round pick should he decided to leave school. Like Leonard, he's mobile for his size, and he competes defensively. Plumlee can score in the post, but also off the bounce and with a solid midrange jumper.

This list has the potential to grow as the season progresses, if, for example, Florida's Patric Young can shake off the effects of an ankle injury that has hampered him in recent games and Indiana freshman Cody Zeller, brother of Tyler, decides to declare. Many scouts believe he would be a lottery pick who only needs to get stronger to become an every-night contributor in the NBA.

Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

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