Thursday, June 28, 2012

The OVC in the NBA

The 2012 NBA Draft has now concluded, with teams like Kentucky and North Carolina dominating the two round selection process. All we will hear about in this area over the next few days is the "Brow" and his former Wildcat teammates. But in this article, we are going to focus elsewhere. We are going to steer clear of talking about the power conferences and turn our attention to players coming out of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Before the millennium, the NBA was able to see the likes of former OVC greats like Anthony Mason (TSU), Popeye Jones (MSU), Carlos Rogers (TSU), and Bubba Wells (APSU). Since then, the talent throughout the NCAA has spread to more than just power conferences, making a small school star capable of being recognized as one of the best in college basketball. Every year there is some kind of Cinderella team led by future NBA prospect whether it was Stephen Curry of Davidson, Damian Lillard of Weber State, or our very own Isaiah Canaan of Murray State. These kind of players help build a school into an up and coming dynasty, and the OVC is now producing players capable of doing that more so than ever.

Let's focus on five of the most recent OVC-NBA players dating back to 2000 and see how successful they were at the professional level.

1. Trenton Hassell / F / Austin Peay
-This 6'5" guard/forward was drafted with the first selection of the 2nd round in the 2001 NBA draft to the Chicago Bulls. He was with the team for two years, playing in all but two games while averaging 6.4 points per game, even being named Rookie of the Month in February of 2002. Hassell played seven more seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, and New Jersey Nets totaling 644 games (427 starts) during his career, being known as a shut down defender. His last season came in 2010 with the Nets after seeing a major decline in playing time.
-Career Stats- 3,743pts / 1,826rebs / 1,132asts / 282stls / 272blks
--AVG Stats- 5.8pts / 2.8rebs / 1.8asts / 0.4stls / 0.4blks

2. James Singleton / F / Murray State
-The former 6'8" Racer entered into the 2003 NBA Draft, but was not selected in the two rounds. He was eventually picked up by the L.A. Clippers for the 2005-06 season where he played in 59 games averaging 3.4 points per game. Over the course of the next six years, he played in four seasons with the Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and the Washington Wizards. Singleton also played one season overseas where he put up 17.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Now an active player on the Wizards roster, he saw his most productive season this past year in the NBA, averaging 8.2 points.
-Career Stats- 954pts / 910rebs / 109asts / 97stls / 107blks
--AVG Stats- 3.9pts / 3.7rebs / 0.5asts / 0.4stls / 0.5blks

3. Walker Russell / G / Jacksonville State
-This 6'0 guard entered the 2006 NBA Draft, but like Singleton, he was not fortunate enough to get drafted. He spent four seasons in the D-League before finally getting a chance this past season with the Detroit Pistons where he accumulated 84 points, 26 rebounds, 58 assists, and 18 steals in 28 games. While with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, he played in 116 games and even averaged a double-double during the 2008-09 season.
-DLeague Career Stats- 1,898pts / 429rebs / 1,031asts / 223stls / 11blks
--AVG DLeague Stats- 16.4pts / 3.7rebs / 8.9asts / 1.9stls / 0.1blks

4. Lester Hudson / G / Tennessee-Martin
-The 6'3" guard was made the 28th selection of the 2nd round during the 2009 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. He has been on and off the scene throughout his short career with stops in Memphis, Washington, and Cleveland. During this past season, he was given more opportunities with the Cavaliers when Kyrie Irving went down with an injury. After his contract was up in Cleveland, the Grizzlies signed him before the postseason (2nd stint with Memphis). He has accumulated 52 pro appearances in his short career. He has also played in 25 D-League games averaging 16.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
-Career Stats- 250pts / 69rebs / 66asts / 26stls / 7blks
--AVG Stats- 4.8pts / 1.3rebs / 1.3asts / 0.5stls / 0.1blks

5. Kenneth Faried / F / Morehead State
-This 6'8" beast, aka "The Manimal", was the 22nd selection of the 1st round during the 2011 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He had limited time early in the season until the Nuggets traded away Nene, playing in only 46 games for the entire year. Then Faried instantly became a human highlight reel, with monstrous dunks and "not-in-my-house" blocks. He first basket in the NBA was actually on SportsCenter's Top 10 and can be seen below. During his rookie campaign, he was named Rookie of the Month for April and was selected to the All-Rookie First Team. Faried, who owns the career NCAA rebounding record, was said to be "too small" to excel in the paint at the professional level. He proved them wrong by leading all rookies in double-doubles with 12. Rebounding wise, he has 13 regular season games with double digit rebounds to go along with four more during the postseason (averaged 10.4pts, 10rebs, & 1.1blks during playoffs).
-Career Stats- 471pts / 352rebs / 36asts / 34stls / 47blks
--AVG Stats- 10.2pts / 7.7rebs / 0.8asts / 0.7stls / 1.0blks
**INTERESTING STAT- Averaged 21.8pts, 16.3rebs, & 2.2blks per 48min**

Tonight we add another OVC guy to the list...

Kevin Murphy / G / Tennessee Tech
-The 6'6" shooting guard has just been selected by the Utah Jazz with the 47th selection in the 2012 NBA Draft. Murphy led the OVC in scoring this past season and has the length to become a decent player at the next level. While he is definitely a risky selection due to being one dimensional, this OVC shooting guard makes it two straight for the conference and helps the publicity for recruiting even more. When Murphy dropped 50 points against SIU-Edwardsville, he grabbed the attention of all NBA scouts, most importantly being the Jazz. He will definitely need a couple seasons to improve his defense and turnover problems, but given that he was drafted by the Jazz, he will at least have a chance for a roster spot. He will have to beat out Alec Burks, Raja Bell, & Gordon Hayward to get a starting position on the wing while Devin Harris is the starting point guard. There aren't many players with star-like qualities on this team, so if the Tennessee Tech grad lights it up from deep in camp, he could see quality minutes in his 2nd year as a pro, if not as a rookie.
-2011 Stats- 681pts / 173rebs / 76asts / 28stls / 7blks
-AVG Stats- 20.6pts / 5.2rebs / 2.3asts / 0.8stls / 0.2blks
**INTERESTING FACT- Only player in NCAA to score 50 points in a game during 2011-12 season**

Now, we have seen two straight seasons of OVC players being selected. This is the first time that has happened since Marcus Brown (MSU) being selected by the Blazers in 1996 and Bubba Wells (APSU) being drafted by the Mavericks in 1997. Could this number be extended to three straight seasons? Not only can this new OVC tradition keep going, but there is also a very strong chance that more than one player from the conference gets drafted in 2013. Here are three names to watch....

1. Robert Covington / F / Tennessee State
The 6'9" big man has all the tools to excel at the pro level. With his height, he is a big enough body to work the paint when needed. He also has great touch from deep making him a duel threat big man in the NBA. In a way he reminds me of a poor man's Danny Granger. After his sensational junior season, Covington is being projected in many mock drafts to be selected in the mid 2nd round. The question I have about him is how well he adapts to all the recent changes in the coaching staff during his last season at TSU. The way Covington, as well as the team, performs in this new system could drastically effect his draft status.
-2011 Stats- 607pts / 267rebs / 48asts / 54stls / 46blks
-AVG Stats- 17.9pts / 7.9rebs / 1.4asts / 1.6stls / 1.4blks

2. Ed Daniel / F / Murray State
The man with the EdFro is feared by all opposing players in the OVC, and after his performance in the NCAA tournament against Marquette, bigger conferences should fear the fro as well. This undersized 6'7" center has the athletic ability to be a "Faried-like" power forward in the NBA. Like Faried, Daniel makes his living in the paint grabbing rebounds, throwing down ferocious dunks, and inviting every opposition to his "block" party. Not many fans, or even scouts, thought that Ed playing in the pros was a strong possibility. That is until he appeared on the big stage against a very built team in Marquette. If there is any way that Ed can play with that same kind of motor throughout the majority of next season, and not take plays off, then not only could he be selected in the 2013 NBA draft, he could actually have a chance at going late in the 1st round. I know it sounds crazy, but with the reports being heard from the Amare camp, NBA agents are saying he WILL get drafted and is expected to be one of the top big men in college basketball this upcoming season (check out this MKYSports exclusive for more details on Ed & Isaiah at these NBA camps).
-2011 Stats- 225pts / 183rebs / 29asts / 29stls / 50blks
-AVG Stats- 6.8pts / 5.5rebs / 0.9asts / 0.9stls / 1.5blks

3. Isaiah Canaan / G / Murray State
Let's just say that this 6'0" reigning OVC Player of the Year has the chance to be the face of not only the OVC in 2012, but also all of college basketball if he can help lead Murray State to another memorable season. Canaan could have gone pro during this last offseason, and he probably would have if Steve Prohm would have left for a more prestigious job. He was projected as an early to mid 2nd round pick in many mock drafts if he would have left school early, but now that he is going to finish out his college basketball career, many 2013 projections have him going in the mid to late first round. Many mocks that I have seen have him going around #20 to the Denver Nuggets or Boston Celtics. How awesome would that be to have one NBA team playing, and possibly sometimes starting, two OVC players? For Canaan to excel at the pro level though, he will need to become a better defender. He can already score with some of the best and is a dead eye shooter from behind the arc. If he can improve in that area, he will have a chance to grab a starting job in the NBA, and at worse be a solid role player. I can see him playing a Mario Chalmers-like role at the next level, but with greater potential.
-2011 Stats- 626pts / 114rebs / 120asts / 31stls / 1blk
-AVG Stats- 19.0pts / 3.5rebs / 3.6asts / 1.4stls / 0.1blk
**INTERESTING FACT- Rumor has it that Canaan beat Chris Paul 1 on 1 at camp**

We have seen what an OVC allstar is capable of doing at the next level with Kenneth Faried. His success in the NBA as a rookie has opened the doors for more small conference players, like the newly drafted Kevin Murphy. Wouldn't it be something to see another OVC guy make the All-Rookie team? It could have been Isaiah Canaan, but he decided to stay in school one more year and attempt what most would consider the impossible...have multiple OVC players get drafted, maybe even two from the same team. Is this a new tradition in the conference? Who will become the next superstar after these three prospects? Can Murray State's success bring in more high profile recruits with NBA potential? We can only hope. It will bring even more excitement to what is already an exciting Ohio Valley Conference.

Erik McCree, is it in you to be next?



  2. You failed to mention that Ricky Minard of Morehead State was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the second round in 2004.

  3. He wasn't mentioned in any of my sources, most likely because he has never played a game at the NBA level