Source: USA TODAY
The countdown has nearly expired for college basketball underclassmen to announce their status for the 2013 NBA draft.
The annual domino effect that alters the college and pro games that’s derived from 20-something-year-olds’ decisions is coming to a close — with NBA teams gauging the near-finalized talent pool for the June 27 draft and the college landscape for 2013-14 becoming clearer as we learn which players are staying.
“I’ve never made a decision this big in my life,” Louisville’s Russ Smith told WDRB.com.”I lose sleep. I’ve been losing sleep, especially the last week and a half.”
As in most years, we’ve seen the obvious (star UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad declaring) and the not-so-obvious (star point guard Marcus Smart staying at Oklahoma State).
With five days until the NBA deadline for players to announce their draft status, USA TODAY Sports takes a look at five of the top college prospects who remain undecided, examining the impact of their departures/returns.
Russ Smith, Louisville
After winning a national title and Big East Conference title in his junior year with the Cardinals, it’s difficult to discover any huge reasons for Smith to return to a Peyton Siva-less squad. Still, the pull comes from playing for Rick Pitino again and trying to help Louisville repeat — a rare feat in college basketball that a Joakim Noah-led Florida team accomplished in the mid 2000s.
Why should he return? To help Louisville win another national title and show John Calipari’s highly touted freshman class that the best team in the Bluegrass State wears red, not blue. He also has the chance to finish his education, while it’s unlikely he’ll lose an enormous amount of draft stock (he’s projected in the second round) if he holds off a year.
If he goes pro … Louisville will fall from preseason top 10 team and title contender to a rebuilding project with an NCAA tournament bid far from a sure thing.
*Decision expected Wednesday.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott was a finalist for national player of the year after averaging 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s a likely second-round pick this year who could sneak into the first round. That might not be the case in next year’s draft. His shooting (close to 50% from the floor) and range give him an underrated versatility offensively.
Why should he return? To help Creighton do what former conference foe Wichita State did this past season. The Bluejays beat the Shockers twice en route to the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
If he goes pro … With McDermott, the Bluejays shouldn’t have an issue competing in the newly formed Big East. Without him, the transition could be bumpy.
*Decision expected Wednesday.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
While Gary Harris announced his plans last week to remain with the Spartans, Payne’s future has been the biggest question looming around Michigan State. After averaging 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season as a junior, Payne has established himself as a lock to get drafted, although it’s unlikely it’ll be in the first round.
Why should he return? Because the team’s core returns and it’s fairly wide open for the Spartans to take control of the Big Ten. He also could boost his stock much more than he could hinder it by returning to MSU.
If he goes pro … The Big Ten picture becomes cloudier, and Tom Izzo will have to find inexperienced replacements to make up for everything Payne can bring on a nightly basis.
Shane Larkin, Miami (Fla.)
The do-everything point guard propelled the Hurricanes to an ACC regular-season title and strong NCAA tournament finish. More importantly, he was the quarterback for a veteran-laden team that helped turn around the program in drastic fashion. At 5-11, he has to make up for his size with speed and craftiness.
Why should he return? Sure, senior-laden Miami will be depleted, but this is a chance for Larkin to do more than control a high-octane offense. It’ll be a chance to separate himself as an elite guard who can put a team on his back, something he did at times in 2012-13, but would need to do regularly with key players departing.
If he goes pro … Already forced to turn to new faces with seniors leaving, Jim Larranaga would have to lean on a new catalyst for offensive production and team leadership with hopes of proving Miami as a mainstay in the ACC.
Isaiah Austin, Baylor
The freshman 7-footer averaged 13 points and 7.1 rebounds in a shaky season for the Bears. His size and athleticism make him eye candy for NBA GMs, but more time to fine-tune his skills at the college level could make him much more enticing.
Why should he return? He’ll get a chance to help Baylor do what it couldn’t last season: Establish consistency. That comes naturally with experience. Austin had strong performances, but he never truly dominated.
If he goes pro … Baylor will have to make up for the loss of senior do-everything guard Pierre Jackson and Austin, its two most integral players. The Bears would not only be lacking consistency and rhythm, but talent, with that scenario.