Keegan: Scout: Jayhawks smart

Monday, June 26, 2006

Decision-making ability is one area NBA scouts look at when evaluating college prospects. In that regard, at least one scout is more impressed with Big 12 Conference players who didn't leave early for the draft than most who did.

Jim Clibanoff said he counted half the NBA teams as subscribers to his "Clib Hoops" scouting service, a business he runs out of Philadelphia. Asked to name the player in this year's NBA draft that has the best shot at becoming a repeat All-Star, Clibanoff cited LaMarcus Aldridge, the 6-foot-11 power forward who left Texas after his second season. His review of the remaining five early entries from the Big 12 wasn't as favorable.

More from him later in the week on Iowa State's starting backcourt of Will Blalock and Curtis Stinson, Texas duo Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker and Missouri's Thomas Gardner. First, hear what he has to say about the decisions of Brandon Rush and Julian Wright to return to Kansas University for their sophomore seasons.

"In Rush's case, he made remarkable progress this past season," Clibanoff said. "If he grew up that much from Point A to Point B and can grow that much from Point B to Point C, Rush probably just made himself a lot of money by staying in school."

On Wright: "Of their returning players, I'd have to say he has the most upside potential. I think his versatility will give him that chance to separate himself from good to great."

The depth of talent at KU hurts players' chances for big minutes, but helps in other ways, Clibanoff said.

"The fact that all the players bought into the system helped the team collectively and helped each player individually," Clibanoff said. "People in the NBA look at their decisions to come back to school, and they see maturity. Being forced to co-exist with other talent helps them. There are so many players who come out of college after being the man that when they get onto an NBA floor, they have difficulty figuring out how to integrate their talent with existing veterans. They have to figure out ways to help when they don't have the ball in their hands. In college, they might take 18 shots a game, and even if they take bad shots, they're still going to get the ball the next time down, so they're used to taking bad shots."

At Kansas, that transition already has taken place, Clibanoff said.

"They've been forced to impact the game other than by scoring," he said. "Moving without the ball, picking up your defense, getting deflections, getting easy buckets in transition off of steals."

Clibanoff said he was eager to see more of Mario Chalmers and the incoming freshmen before offering an opinion on their NBA prospects. He indicated Sasha Kaun, after four years at KU, could have a role.

"It's such a center-starved league," Clibanoff said. "You have to consider any guy with size, mobility and agility as a potential NBA player. Whether he projects as a productive NBA player, maybe not. But being able to run the floor makes guys money. He can run the floor."

What does it say that no KU players even entered and then withdrew their names from the NBA draft pool?

"That staff is doing a good of not only helping them improve, but of selling them on the advantages of staying in school," Clibanoff said.