Posted Apr 3, 2014 11:53 AM
Four teams, four heroes, four possible NBA players -- at some point in the future -- as the NCAA tournament winds to a close:
DeAndre Daniels, 6-foot-9 Jr., Connecticut
As mentioned in this column last week, UConn has ridden the performance of point guard Shabazz Napier to the Final Four, just as it did when Kemba Walker helped the Huskies win the national championship in 2011. Daniels' play has been just as impactful.
Daniels was huge in a Sweet 16 victory over Iowa State, contributing 27 points and 10 boards, and he helped UConn overcome Michigan State in the East Regional final with 12 points and eight rebounds. He's averaging 17 points after four NCAA games.
"[Daniels] was unbelievable," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was hitting mid-range shots over extended hands and got free for a couple of threes. ... They did a good job going to him."
NBA scouts have taken notice of Daniels' surge in the NCAAs, but he's given no indication he won't be back for his senior season.
Michael Frazier, 6-foot-4 So., Florida
Florida coach Billy Donovan learned to love to the 3-pointer when he played for Rick Pitino at Providence, and as a coach he's always given his players the green light to fire away from behind the arc. He's never had a more prolific gunner than Frazier, who this season has already set Florida and Southeastern Conference records for 3s in a game (11) and a season (117).
Frazier shoots 45 percent from 3, and that's after a minor slump in the Gators' first two NCAA games (1 of 4 against Albany, 2 of 9 against Pittsburgh). Frazier got some advice from Donovan before the Gators' Sweet 16 game against UCLA. "Shoot with confidence," Donovan said. Frazier made five 3s against UCLA and two more in the South Regional final against Dayton.
Frazier isn't likely to make himself eligible for the draft after this season, but with his accuracy, range and size, he'll find a place in the NBA eventually.
Aaron Harrison, 6-foot-4 Fr., Kentucky
The scene has already taken its place in Kentucky basketball lore. Less than five seconds remain in the Wildcats' Midwest Regional final against Michigan. The score is tied at 72 and Harrison, a good two strides behind the 3-point line, rises to shoot.
Michigan's Caris LeVert, 6-foot-6 with the wingspan of a condor, leaps to contest the shot. Harrison later said he was sure the ball grazed LeVert's fingertips, but that didn't alter its path to the bottom of the net. Kentucky won, advancing to its third Final Four in the last four seasons.
There's little doubt the Wildcats would be on spring break right now without contributions from Harrison and his twin brother Andrew. In four NCAA tournament games, Aaron has averaged 16 points and shot 54 percent (13 of 24) from the 3-point line.
"He's not afraid to miss," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the Michigan game. "That's the whole thing about making those kind of plays. You can't be afraid to miss. 'If I do miss, I'm making the next one, and I will shoot the next one.' That's where he is right now."
Harrison could well become yet another one-and-doner in Kentucky's NBA factory. His play in March has made believers out of skeptics that wondered whether he was ready for the Draft.
Frank Kaminsky, 7-foot, Jr., Wisconsin
At least one neutral observer credits Wisconsin's trip to the Final Four to the efforts of Kaminsky, a poster boy for staying in school, working in a proven system for a great coach and preparing for the next level -- whether that's the NBA, Europe or the business world. After his play in the NCAAs, Kaminsky will get a chance to make his next stop the NBA. And with a season of eligibility remaining, he could boost his stock even more.
"Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin's in the Final Four," Arizona coach Sean Miller said after watching Kaminsky outduel his pair of future pros, 6-foot-9 freshman Aaron Gordon and 7-foot sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski with a 28-point, 11-rebound performance.
"Kaminsky made some great plays," Miller said. "He's a difficult match-up. He's got to be one of the best offensive players who plays college basketball, that's for sure."
Earlier in the tournament, Kaminsky produced 19 points and five rebounds against Oregon and 19 points, four boards and a personal-best six blocked shots against Baylor against a couple of more players who will wind up in the NBA, 6-foot-9 senior Cory Jefferson and 7-foot-1 sophomore Isaiah Austin.
Kaminsky is a byproduct of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's program that is the polar opposite of Calipari's approach at Kentucky. Both are effective.
"He had a chance to play behind some other guys that he learned from in Jared Berggren and in a lot of practices with guys like Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer, who is with Memphis now," Ryan said. "So he's had a chance to be around some guys that could help him. He listens. [And he's] very bright. He's meant a lot to our program."
Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
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