Each year there are a handful of mid-major players making a case for themselves in the June NBA Draft: Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Eric Maynor, and Jason Thompson to name a few recent selections. Aside from Larry Sanders of VCU and Tulsa's Jerome Jordan, who are well-documented potential 2010 1st Round picks, NBA-Draft.com takes a look at some of the Forwards and Centers from Mid-Major colleges and universities that scouts and NBA front offices are looking at. (In no particular order):
Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford
This 6'11", 260 pound Senior from Minsk, plays for a small school in the Big South Conference, but he has stood out this season, producing against higher competition. He is a good post player with a smooth outside shot to complement. He is not a great athlete, but you can't deny his production against both big and small schools; he is averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds per game through eleven games including 23 points and 14 rebounds (7 offensive) in a loss to #8 Duke and 21 points and 13 rebounds (6 offensive) in a loss to #1 Kansas.
Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's
The 6'11" Center was an All-WCC selection last season, but scouts were still not too high on him. Coming into this season, scouts questioned how did not know how Samhan would fare without all-conference players like Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson by his side. But the Saint Mary's Center has been even more dominant without them; his season averages are 21 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 57.4% from the field. In three games against non-conference foes this season, Samhan put up 17 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks against San Diego State, 25 points and 19 rebounds against Vanderbilt and 31 points and 17 rebounds against Portland State. As Samhan and Saint Mary's head into a depleted WCC, look for the Senior Center to continue his dominance.
Kevin Thompson, Morgan State
Last season as a Freshman at Morgan State, Thompson finished the season ranked third in the conference in rebounding and as a result, he was named to the MEAC All-Rookie team. Although he plays for a small school in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, he has played very well against out-of-conference foes. In November and early December, the Morgan State Bears traveled to Louisville and Arkansas in back-to-back games and Thompson responded with two double-doubles- 16 points and 13 rebounds against the Cardinals and 10 points and 14 rebounds in an upset win against the Razorbacks. In the December match up against the Gophers of Minnesota, the 6'8" Power Forward scored 17 points and grabbed 19 rebounds (9 offensive). Thompson has one more game on the schedule at Baylor next week to stand out and make a name for himself before Morgan State heads into Conference play.
Keith Benson, Oakland
The lanky 6'11" Junior Forward has started off the season strong, compiling eight double-doubles in his team's first 15 games. He uses his athleticism and his explosive leaping ability to rebound, block shots and score around the rim. He does not possess a great feel for the game and has just average defensive awareness. He is still struggling shooting the ball from outside and finishing around the rim, but his offensive game is showing tremendous promise. He continues to produce- averaging 17 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game on the season including a 20 points, 6 rebound, 4 block performance against Kansas' frontline and a 21 point, 11 rebound game against Michigan State.
Charles Garcia, Seattle
Garcia is a 6'9", 220-pound versatile Power Forward with tremendous skills and 1st Round talent. Just over three years ago Garcia committed to the University of Washington of the Pac-10 Conference, before enrolling in a Community College and then transferring to Seattle University. He has shown some of his potential scoring the ball, rebounding and handling the ball as a Point-Forward, but Garcia also has many front offices questioning his background. He is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds on the season with strong showings against Oklahoma State (18 points and 9 rebounds) and Fresno State (21 points, 12 rebounds).
Arnett Moultrie, UTEP
Moultrie's size, athleticism, quickness and raw talent give him the ability to become a legit 4-man in the NBA next season. He is a 6'11" Sophomore with long arms and a strong inside-outside game to boast. He is still raw and needs to work on different facets of his game, both offensively and defensively, but he has shown flashes of his potential this season. Moultrie is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds while also chipping in two steals and one block per game so far this season.
Derrick Caracter, UTEP
Caracter is not really a mid-major player after spending two seasons in Louisville with Coach Rick Pitino, but his off-the-court problems limited his minutes and his production so the 6'9" Power Forward transferred to UTEP for a new start. He has lost weight and looks to be in better shape this season; he played a career-high 32 minutes versus Ole Miss and he produced as a result- scoring 15 points and grabbing a career high 15 rebounds. In his six games as a Miner, he has collected four double-doubles and demands double-teams in the paint, freeing up his teammates. Caracter may need one more season in El Paso to convince NBA teams he is worth the investment.
Kenny Faried, Morehead State
The 6'8" Power Forward really had his coming-out party in last season's NCAA Tournament play-in game when he corralled 21 boards against Alabama State. His determination and motor helped him finished third in the nation in rebounding with 13 per game as a Sophomore. This season, he is a much-improved offensive player- averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game - nearly 4 points better by getting to the foul line more often and connecting at a higher percentage than last season. On opening night in Kentucky, Faried finished with 17 points (8-12 FG) and 7 rebounds, but he was quiet and he looked overmatched against Kentucky's front line. Since then, he has eight double-doubles in 11 games.
Aaric Murray, LaSalle
Despite starting to play organized basketball just a few years ago, Murray has become a star for LaSalle in his Freshman campaign. He offers great size at 6'10", 250 pounds and is a true low-post player who can also shoot from outside. He has been inconsistent this season- tallying 15 points and 14 boards (9 offensive) at Villanova and recording a double-double against Oklahoma State with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but then he has also disappeared in a match up with Kansas- scoring 4 points (1-6 FG) and grabbing 6 rebounds. He will need another year or two in Philadelphia before he gets serious looks from teams in the NBA Draft.
Hassan Whiteside, Marshall
This 6'11", 225 athletic 4-man is quickly making a name for himself in college basketball. He is currently third in the nation in blocked shots per game with 4.9, including his 11 swats to round out Whiteside's triple-double earlier this season. His long arms, quickness and explosive leaping ability make him an interesting prospect despite being so raw offensively, as he is shooting just 36% from the foul line. Going against Ed Davis, Deon Thompson and the rest of North Carolina's front line, Whiteside was only able to record seven points, four rebounds and three blocks, but bounced back nicely with an 18-point, 16-rebound performance against Troy the next game.
Chris Braswell, Charlotte
Braswell's season numbers of 8.9 points and 8.8 rebounds won't "wow" you, but the 6'8" Charlotte Freshman is showing some promise. He was originally a top-100 recruit committed to Georgetown, but instead chose to attend Hargrave Military Academy for a year. He is playing just 21 minutes per game this season, but he is still developing. In an upset win at Louisville, he had 21 points and 14 rebounds and followed that up with a 16 point, 15 rebound performance. He is one player to keep an eye on as Charlotte plays Georgia Tech and Tennessee after the New Year.
Greg Smith, Fresno State
As a Freshman at Fresno State, Smith has been making a name for himself along with NBA Draft prospects Paul George and Arizona State Sylvester Seay. He turned down scholarship offers from Kansas and Arizona to play near home in Fresno, California. Smith has quietly been on of the nation's top freshmen- averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, including a 24 point, 10 rebound performance against Charles Garcia's Seattle squad, 16-10 game against San Diego State and a 21 point, 8 rebound match against BYU.
Andrew Nicholson, Saint Bonaventure
Despite winning the A-10's Freshman of the Year honors last year, Nicholson is flying under the radar a bit. In high school, he suffered a foot injury, keeping him from truly developing. Now that he has reached the national scene, scouts and front office execs are starting to take notice of the 6'9" and is a long, athletic Forward. He is an explosive leaper who loves to finish around the rim with a ferocious dunk, but he can also step outside and connect on his mid-range jumper. He had 18 points and 5 boards in a loss to Syracuse in December, before getting ejected for hitting a 'Cuse Guard in the groin. That aside, if Nicholson can add some weight to his frame and continue to develop offensively, he will find his way into the 2010 NBA Draft. On the season, he is averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds per game, on 66.1% shooting from the field and 85% from the free-throw line.