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April 14, 2008

Monday Tip: Possible early entry mistakes

CAST YOUR VOTE: Who made the worst decision to turn pro?

Some players make great decisions to leave early for the NBA Draft. They simply are ready, and there is no place else to take their game.

Some players make poor decisions to leave early, too. They're not ready, and another year of college can serve only to improve their game.

You can't blame a kid for leaving if millions await. You can, though, debate whether more millions and more security would have been around a year later.

Rivals.com counts 21 players as having announced their intention to enter the draft. Most have done so without hiring an agent, meaning they are eligible to withdraw from the draft and maintain their college eligibility. We asked basketball editor Bob McClellan and staff writer Andrew Skwara to pick the player they believe is making the worst decision to enter the draft early. Here are their picks:

SKWARA'S PICK: Robin Lopez, Stanford

We all expected Brook Lopez turn pro. Or at least we should have. Seven-footers always are considered NBA prospects, and Lopez has displayed the kind of offensive skills rarely seen for someone his size. Lopez put together a great sophomore season, elevating his already-high stock with some stellar play in the NCAA Tournament. He is a lock for the lottery.

The news that Brook's 7-foot twin Robin also was making the NBA leap was a bit surprising and even disappointing. Robin has almost the same frame as Brook (the former weighs 255, the latter 260), but they don't share much else in common.

Robin also has great potential, but for now he's a defensive specialist. He's a good shot blocker with little offensive game. That describes several 7-footers who went on to have short-lived NBA careers.

Robin can't score with his back-to-the basket. He has no go-to move. His 10.2 points per game last season didn't even rank among the top 20 scorers in the Pac-10.

What really makes Robin's decision unwise is that he plans to sign with an agent, thereby eliminating his chances of returning to school.

Robin would have had a great chance to develop the offensive side of his game next season. With Brook gone, he would have become a focal part of Stanford's offense and gotten more than twice as many touches.

Instead, Robin will ride the bench for some NBA team. He'll be fortunate to play 10 minutes a game and will spent more time on planes than at practice.

MCCLELLAN'S PICK: J.J. Hickson, N.C. State

Someone should let Hickson know that there are a lot of early entry big men in the draft class perhaps too many for him to be a first-round pick.

Hickson, a 6-foot-9, 242-pound former five-star prospect, has the ability to make it in the NBA, but he could stand more time in the college game. A highly effective back-to-the-basket post player, he has yet to develop the rest of his offensive game. He's not especially comfortable putting the ball on floor, nor has he developed much of a left hand.

He has the physical tools (size, length), and he runs the floor well. He started the season strongly (he was Rivals.com's first national freshman of the week this season), but ACC coaches figured him out. Hickson averaged only 12.5 points per game in conference play after averaging 16.5 points per game in November and December. He had three single-digit scoring games in a row late in the season.

Hickson could stay in school, develop his offensive game, pay a little more attention on the defensive end and end up as a lottery pick after a successful sophomore season.

CAST YOUR VOTE: Who made the worst decision to turn pro?

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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