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Championship Week-Players with Something to Prove

Posted on 08. Mar, 2010 by Justin Shulman in NBA Draft


With Championship week underway and the power conferences ready to assume battle, Flagrant Fouls has identified five players that need to put on a good showing.  These players have either struggled to close out the regular season, have not lived up to expectations or have serious red flags that need to be put to bed in order to improve their standing with NBA executives.

JaJuan Johnson, Junior (Purdue)  

After a big jump in production from his freshman to sophomore season, JaJuan has been labeled as a prospect who may have hit his ceiling in his Junior campaign.  While still showing improved numbers, Johnson has not been able to come out from behind the shadows of Hummel and E'Twaun Moore becoming that go-to player everyone expected.  JaJuan is part of the same class and is the most ready prospect for the next level of the three players, but that extra gear that could propel him to the back half of the lottery hasn't gone off.  When Hummel went down for the year, expectations rose and opportunity presented itself but thus far, there has been nothing to get excited about. Everyone has jumped off the Purdue bandwagon and JaJuan now has a chance to shine and put some of the notoriety back on himself when Purdue basketball gets mentioned in March.  Johnson is a fringe first round pick, and more likely to get drafted in the second round, but a bad March would surely mean he will be back in West Lafayette next year with even more to prove.  Ask Kyle Singler how tough it is to come back to school and improve your draft stock.

Jarvis Varnado, Senior (Mississpi State) and Hassan Whiteside, Freshman (Marshall)

Jarvis Varnado and Hassan Whiteside are the two best players in collegiate basketball you have never seen play.  Both are athletic specimens whose bodies are under developped and dominate the defensive side of the game.  Depending on whom you speak with these two players are the unanimous 1-2 shot blockers in America.  The biggest difference is that one is a Senior whose team has never been at the forefront of the SEC conference and one is a Freshman whose team plays in the lowly Conference USA.  For Varnado a big March will put him on the map to some degree.  A four year player hiding in the deep south of Mississippi, Varnado hasn't had much national exposure.  While Jarvis has been on the scouts radar for two years now, making a name for himself in the dance might vault him off the bubble between the first and second rounds.  Whiteside has a different challenge to conquer in the coming weeks.  There has been so much hype about Whiteside that he is being considered as a top five selection.  This is quite a feat considering nobody knew his name prior to the season.  Whiteside though has been putting up near triple double averages on most nights, against what many scouts believe is inferior competition.  NBA personel will be watching Whiteside carefully, dissecting every move he makes.  Being only a Freshman, and the NBA drooling over his upside, March 2010 might be the month that introduces the world to Hassan Whiteside or the month that fades him into obscurity.

Willie Warren, Sophomore (Oklahoma) 

Warren is an interesting case as he is injured for the season and will not have an opportunity to impress scouts with his play.  Warren was thought to be a late lottery pick last June but elected to stay in school and lead Oklahoma out of the shadow of Blake Griffin.  Talk about a plan that has backfired.  Warren has struggled with his play, his shot selection, and his leadership skills, which have all added up to Oklahoma in danger of their first losing season since 1980.  There have also been reports out of Norman that a rift between Warren and coach Capel exists to the point that Warren will be declaring for the NBA draft regardless of the many dissapointments this season has brought.  My intel has informed me that Warren is all over the board right now ranging from a lottery pick on some boards to a second rounder on others.    If that is the case, I strongly urge WW to be the biggest cheerleader on that sideline during the Big 12 tourney so that he leaves the many scouts on hand with a positive impression to report when his leadership skills and character come into question during the combine interviews. 

Luke Harangody, Senior (Notre Dame)

Harangody put his name into the draft last year but refrained from signing with an agent.  After gathering the proper information, the decision to come back to school and develop his shooting range and shed the tag that he was an undersized power forward was needed in order to get in the good graces of NBA personnel.  Harangody has accomplished every one of those feats and now might even be considered a "large" small forward.  From a personal standpoint, Luke's numbers were extraordinary, and if not for the injury down the stretch, Luke was on pace to break the conference scoring record.  After failing to make the NCAA tournament last season things were looking no different, until Harangody went down with an injury that sidelined him for the final third of the conference regular season.  Except Notre Dame started to win.  It appears the team has rallied enough to even make the big dance.  Harangody is healthy enough to play but it appears the team has formed their chemistry bond without him.  The nation has seen this unfold with our very eyes and now Harangody has a tough task in front of him.  Trying to fit back into a team that was built around his skillset but has enjoyed more success during his absence will be a tough pill to swallow.  Scouts will be paying close attention in March to Harangody's recovery.  Hopefully it doesn't hurt the team.

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