Draft Day Special – New England’s Top NBA Prospects Since ‘07

New England Recruiting Report | Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Draft Day Special – New England’s Top NBA Prospects Since ‘07

Tonight, 60 basketball players from spots all over the world will fulfill a lifelong dream when they hear their name called during the 2009 NBA Draft.  Of those 60, only the 30 who are selected in the first round are assured a guaranteed contract. 

Ultimately, the number of players who realize that childhood dream of hearing their name called on draft night are few and far between to say the least.  In order to even have a chance to compete at that level a player must be incredibly gifted and well trained. 

Tonight, New England products Jeff Adrien (Brookline, MA; Brewster Academy; UConn), Antonio Anderson (Lynn, MA; Lynn Tech/MCI/Lauringburg; Memphis); Paul Harris (Notre Dame Prep, Syracuse) and Tony Gaffney (Berkley MA; Northfield Mount Hermon, UMass) are all hoping to hear their names called. 

Other NERR alums Tyreke Evans (2007 National Prep Showcase & 2008 National Prep Championship) and Jordan Hill (2006 National Prep Showcase) will both be in the green room as probable lottery selections.

In the three years since the New England Recruiting Report was first established, our region has produced a staggering amount of basketball talent.  Over 500 players have gone on to play college basketball, close to 300 have earned athletic scholarships, and nearly 200 have gone on to compete at the division I level. 

So how many have a chance to make it to the most competitive basketball league in the world?  To get our answer we searched the two premier online sources for the NBA Draft information – DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net – and then added a little bit of our own two-sense. 

New England Class of ‘07

Michael Beasley
Notre Dame Prep, Kansas State
2nd Overall Pick 2008 NBA Draft by Miami Heat
After dominating college basketball during his only season at Kansas Sate, Beasley was selected by the Miami Heat with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.  He put up solid numbers in Miami last season with just under 14 points & 5 rebounds per game but was still brought along slowly, spending the majority of the season coming off the bench as the Heat’s coaching staff stressed his necessary defensive development.  Looking back, what’s staggering is that it now costs about $100/ticket to see Beasley play in person and just two years ago New England fans had him in their back yard. 

Craig Brackins
Brewster Academy, Iowa State
9th in 2010 NBADraft.net Mock Draft, 18th Pick in 2010 Draft Express Mock Draft
4th Ranked Sophomore in Country by NBADraft.net, 18th by Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  Channing Frye – Portland Trail Blazers
He turned down the opportunity to declare for the draft this year even though most projected him as a first round pick.  He’s on the lottery bubble for next year’s draft heading into his junior season at Iowa State as his 6’10” frame and perimeter skill set makes him an ideal perimeter 4-man in the NBA.  He’s already a very good pick and pop player, but he’ll need to continue to put on muscle, expand his game inside the paint, and improve defensively. 

Rakim Sanders
St. Andrew’s, Boston College
23rd Ranked Sophomore in Country by NBADraft.net, 58th by Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  Ronald Murray – Atlanta Hawks
Although NBADraft.net ranks Sanders among the top 30 sophomore prospects in the country, and Draft Express among the top 60, we’ve yet to see him listed in any mock drafts.  That’s probably just a matter of time as Sanders hasn’t shown his best stuff on a consistent basis yet and is expected to be a cornerstone of BC’s offensive attack next year.  He has the size and strength required to have longevity at the next level and has shown he can score the ball and defend adequately when motivated.  He needs to become a more disciplined defender, develop consistent NBA 3pt range on his jumper, and in general become more consistent on a game to game basis. 

Damian Saunders
Notre Dame Prep, Duquesne
56th in 2010 Draft Express Mock Draft
28th Ranked Sophomore in Country by Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  Dominique McGuire – Washington Wizards
Saunders committed to Marquette before ending up at Duquesne and so there has never been any doubt that he was a high major talent.  He’s got all the physical tools necessary to play in the league with good size, length, speed, quickness, and athleticism.  He can really impact the game defensively with his ability to guard multiple positions and block shots, but he’ll need to work on developing his perimeter game during the second half of his career at Duquesne because he projects as a 3-man at the next level.   


Dogus Balbay
Brewster Academy, Texas
56th Ranked Sophomore in the Country by Draft Express

Justin Burrell
St. John’s, St. John’s
59th Ranked Sophomore in the Country by Draft Express

Gilbert Brown
South Kent, Pittsburgh
25th Ranked Sophomore in the Country by NBADraft.net

New England Class of ‘08

Devin Ebanks
St. Thomas More, West Virginia
7th in 2010 NBADraft.net Mock Draft, 11th in 2010 Draft Express Mock Draft
5th Ranked Freshman in Country by NBADraft.net, 6th by Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  Sean Elliott – San Antonio Spurs (Retired)
Ebanks was known primarily for his scoring ability at St. Thomas More, and while he put up a respectable 10.5 points/game during his freshman year at West Virginia, it was actually his rebounding prowess that really stood out.  He averaged 7.8 rebounds/game on the season and 10.5 per 40 minutes including back to back 17 rebound games in January, and an 18 rebound game against Notre Dame late in the season.  He actually isn’t quite as explosive as he is sometimes given credit for and also lacks NBA range on his jumper but his length is a defensive weapon and he can score consistently from 18 feet and in.  If he continues to progress at the same rate, he could be lottery bound after his sophomore year. 

Terrence Jennings
Notre Dame Prep 2008, Louisville
18th in 2010 Draft Express Mock Draft
19th Ranked Freshman in Country by Draft Express, 32nd by NBADraft.net
NBA Comparison:  Steven Hunter – Denver Nuggets
He was a respectable contributor in his freshman season, being the first big man off the bench in Rick Pitino’s rotation.  With Earl Clark leaving for the NBA, the starting power forward spot is there for Jennings to take.  The most intriguing part of his game is his explosive leaping ability around the rim, making him a big time finisher, excellent offensive rebounder, and a major shot blocking presence.  Last year he blocked 1.6 shots per game in just 11.9 minutes.  If he can maintain anything close to that pace while playing more minutes, he should be one of the premier shot blockers in the country.  Offensively, he still has quite a ways to go. 

Isaiah Thomas
South Kent, Washington
23rd Ranked Freshman in Country by Draft Express, 47th by NBADraft.net
NBA Comparison:  Nate Robinson – New York Knicks
The similarities between Thomas and Robinson are uncanny.  Both are incredibly athletic and equally undersized guards who are at their best off the ball.  Thomas is also following in Robinson’s footsteps at the University of Washington where his freshman numbers actually exceeded those of the former Husky star.  Robinson put up a team high 15.5 points/game in his freshman season to go along with 3 rebounds and 2.6 assists.  By comparison Robinson had 13 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists as a frosh.  Both shot under 30% from the 3pt line.  Two critical components of Robinson’s ability to take his game to the NBA were the fact that he became a much better 3pt shooter as his college career went along and found the perfect style of play (Mike D’Antoni’s fast break offense) early in his NBA career.  If Thomas can do the same then he may have a chance to defy the odds as Robinson did. 

Emmanuel Negedu
Brewster Academy, Tennessee
58th Ranked Freshman in Country by Draft Express, 48th by NBADraft.net
NBA Comparison:  Danny Fortson – Nuggets/Celtics/Warriors/Sonics (Retired)
Negedu was a consistent member of the Tennessee rotation as a freshman playing over 7 minutes per game and seeing action in 33 games.  His physical tools are off the charts with an incredible blend of upper body strength and vertical explosion.  Unfortunately for him though, minutes won’t be any easier to come by next year as Tyler Smith opted against staying in the draft and Wayne Chism and Brian Williams are both returning.  If Negedu can be patient and eventually establish himself as one of the premier rebounders in the country before his four year career comes to an end then he could develop into a Danny Fortson type prospect.  He’s a tad undersized for the power forward position at 6’7” and is limited offensively. 


Assane Sene
South Kent, Virginia
63rd Ranked Freshman in Country by Draft Express

New England Class of ‘09

Alex Oriakhi
Tilton, Connecticut
16th Ranked HS Senior in Country by Draft Express, 39th by NBADraft.net
NBA Comparison: Al Horford – Hawks
With Hasheem Thabeet set to be one of the top picks in tonight’s draft, it looks as if Oriakhi will be given every opportunity to earn the starting center job at UConn right from day one.  And it’s impossible to deny the success Connecticut has had in developing NBA big men – in the last few years alone Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone, Hilton Armston, and after tonight potentially both Thabeet and Adrien.  Oriakhi is a higher rated recruit coming into Storrs than any of those five with the exception of Thabeet.  He’s already got a great frame and after a couple of years in UConn’s legendary weight room you can bet his body will be ridiculous.  Combine that with the fact that he’s a phenomenal athlete, a huge defensive presence, and one of the best finishers around and you’ve got a recipe for #6.  Equally important is that as good as Oriakhi is, he’s still far from a finished product…and nothing captivates NBA executives more than a big man with upside.   

Thomas Robinson
Brewster Academy, Kansas
20th Ranked HS Senior in Country by Draft Express, 10th by NBADraft.net
NBA Comparison: Darius Miles (Clippers/Cavs/Blazers)
Robinson is an absolute physical freak with incredible athleticism.  He simply does things athletically that others can’t and so he too has obvious upside.  He also runs well and finishes everything above the rim, blocks shots on and off the ball, and has the potential to be a defensive stopper down the road.  He will probably play primarily the 4 at Kansas although he projects as a 3 at the next level so developing his perimeter skills, especially his jumper, will be a must.

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel
Tilton, Connecticut
50th Ranked HS Senior in Country by NBADraft.net, Not Ranked by Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  James Posey – Nuggets/Grizzlies/Heat/Celtics/Hornets
The one thing we learned this year was not to underestimate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.  There will be some who say he doesn’t do any one thing well enough.  He’s a pretty good, not great, shooter.  He can get to the rim, but doesn’t play low enough to the ground.  He’s a very good athlete, but not incredible.  But Coombs-McDaniel has two things that set him apart from all others – an incredible killer instinct and an unbelievable will to win.  The bottom line is those who have doubted him in the past have been proven wrong and there’s always a market for a guy who just knows how to win games. 

Erik Murphy
St. Mark’s, Florida
Not Ranked by NBADraft.net or Draft Express
NBA Comparison:  Matt Bonner - Spurs
Murphy has always been at his best when there’s a challenge to overcome.  Whether it was the Class C final his junior year, the individual match-up with Derick Favors at last summer’s Adidas It Takes 5ive, or when representing the US at the Albert Schweitzer Games, when there has been something to prove he has never disappointed.  That’s why we think he’s going to defy expectations at Florida.  Ultimately, Murphy could follow in the footsteps of another highly skilled New England big man who went from Florida to the NBA, Matt Bonner.  He has the same high skill level and feel for the game that could eventually make him an asset at the next level if paired next to a dominant low post scorer – just as Bonner is in San Antonio next to Tim Duncan.