Stay or Go? Past Big Ten early NBA draft entrants

Illinois’ Meyers Leonard declared for the NBA draft Monday (story), and on Wednesday, it was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger’s turn (story). With Leonard and Sullinger, both sophomores, leaving early and the deadlines to declare for the draft approaching (April 10, NCAA; April 29, NBA), BTN.com’s Brent Yarina considers some of the previous Big Ten sophomores – plus freshmen – who have left early since the new millennium. How did the decisions work out? Find out in this post.

Darius Morris — Michigan, 2009-11
College highlights: 2011 All-Big Ten Third Team; set Michigan single-season assist record (235) in 2010-11; recorded third triple-double in Michigan history (12 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) Jan. 30, 2011, vs. Iowa; averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in two seasons.
NBA draft: Second round (No. 41), Los Angeles Lakers
NBA highlights: Scored career-high seven points and tied a career-high with four assists Jan. 14, 2012, at the Clippers.

Jereme Richmond — Illinois, 2010-11
College highlights: Averaged 7.6 points, 1.8 assists and five rebounds per game.
NBA draft: Undrafted
NBA highlights: Never played a game

Byron Mullens — Ohio State, 2008-09
College highlights: 2009 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year; shot 64.2 percent and averaged 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
NBA draft: First round (No. 24), Dallas
NBA highlights: Averaging career-best 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 2012 with Charlotte; scored career-high 23 points Jan. 28, 2012, vs. Washington; grabbed career-high 14 rebounds April 3, 2012, at Toronto.

Eric Gordon — Indiana, 2007-08
College highlights: 2008 All-Big Ten First Team; 2008 AP All-America Third Team; 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year; averaged Big Ten-best 20.9 points per game; set Indiana and Big Ten freshman record for total points (669).
NBA draft: First round (No. 7), Los Angeles Clippers
NBA highlights: Averaged career highs in points (22.3 ppg), rebounds (2.9 rpg), assists (4.4 apg) and steals (1.3) in 2010-11 as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers; one of four players in Clippers history to make seven or more 3-pointers in a game.

Kosta Koufos, Ohio State, 2007-08
College highlights: Averaged 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game; MVP of 2008 NIT; named to all-tournament team at 2007 Preseason NIT; led Ohio State in rebounds (247) and blocks (67).
NBA draft: First round (No. 23), Utah
NBA highlights: Averaging career highs in field goal percentage (59.4 percent), scoring (5.3), rebounds (5.3), steals (0.5), blocks (0.9) and minutes (16.2) in 2011-12 with Denver.

Mike Conley

Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Conley — Ohio State, 2006-07
College highlights: Member of 2007 national runner-up squad; 2007 All-Big Ten First Team (media); averaged 11.7 points per game and a Big Ten-best 6.1 assists; scored 11 points in overtime of NCAA tourney game against Xavier.
NBA draft: First round (No. 4), Memphis
NBA highlights: Averaging career-best seven assists and 2.4 steals per game in 2011-12; averaged career-high 13.7 points per game in 2010-11; tied Memphis franchise record with seven steals on April 12, 2009, at Phoenix.

Daequan Cook — Ohio State, 2006-07
College highlights: Member of 2007 national runner-up squad; 2007 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year; set Ohio State freshman record for three-point field goals made (54); averaged 10.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.7 steals per game; shot 41.5 percent from downtown.
NBA draft: First round (No. 21), Philadelphia
NBA highlights: 2009 NBA Three-Point Shootout champ; scored career-high 27 points on March, 4, 2009.

Greg Oden — Ohio State, 2006-07
College highlights: Member of  of 2007 national runner-up squad; 2007 AP All-America First Team; 2007 All-Big Ten First Team; 2007 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year; shot 61.6 percent and averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game.
NBA draft: First round (No. 1), Portland
NBA highlights: Shot 57.7 percent and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game in two injury-riddled seasons.

Kris Humphries — Minnesota, 2003-04
College highlights: 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year; 2004 All-Big Ten First Team; first freshman to lead the Big Ten in scoring (21.7 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg); scored a Minnesota record 36 points vs. Indiana.
NBA draft: First round (No. 14), Utah
NBA highlights: Shot career-best 52.7 percent in breakout 2010-11 campaign; averaging career highs in points (13.5), rebounds (11), assists (1.3), steals (0.8) and blocks (1.3) in 2011-12.

Rick Rickert — Minnesota, 2001-03
College highlights: 2003 All-Big Ten First Team (coaches); 2002 All-Big Ten Second Team; 2002 Big Ten Freshman of the Year; set a then-record for most points by a Minnesota freshman (441); averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore.
NBA draft: Second round (No. 55), Minnesota
NBA highlights: Never played a game

Jared Jeffries — Indiana, 2000-02
College highlights: Member of 2002 national runner-up team;2002 Big Ten Player of the Year; 2002 AP All-America Second Team; 2001 Big Ten Freshman of the Year; one of only six sophomores in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark (1,008); averaged 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in two seasons.
NBA draft: 1st round (No. 11), Washington
NBA highlights: Averaged career-high 6.8 points per game in 2004-05 and career-best 5.2 rebounds in 2003-04, both with Washington; averaged career-best 1.1 blocks per game in 2009-10 with New York.

Marcus Taylor — Michigan State, 2000-02
College highlights: 2002 All-Big Ten First Team; second player in Big Ten history to lead conference in scoring (16.8 ppg) and assists (5.3 apg); scored a career-high 34 points against Iowa.
NBA draft: 2nd round (No. 52), Minnesota
NBA highlights: Never played a game

Jason Richardson

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Richardson — Michigan State 1999-2001
College highlights: Member of 2000 national championship team; member of 2001 Final Four squad; 2001 All-Big Ten First Team; averaged 14.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a sophomore.
NBA draft: First round (No. 5), Golden State
NBA highlights: 2001-02 NBA All-Rookie First Team; 2002 & 2003 NBA Slam Dunk champion; 2002 MVP of Rookie Challenge; his 243 3-pointers in 2008-09 were the fourth-highest single-season total in NBA history; set a Warriors franchise-record with eight three-pointers on Mar. 29 vs. Phoenix; hit 1,492 career treys; career averages include: 17.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.7 apg and 1 spg.

Zach Randolph — Michigan State, 2000-01
College highlights: Member of 2001 Final Four team; shot 58.7 percent and averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
NBA draft: 1st round (No. 19), Portland
NBA highlights: 2011 All-NBA Third Team; 2003-04 NBA Most Improved Player; 2010 NBA All-Star; grabbed NBA-best 330 offensive rebounds in 2009-10; averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in four of nine seasons.

Jamal Crawford — Michigan, 1999-2000
College highlights: Averaged 16.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 16 career games.
NBA draft: 1st round (No. 8), Cleveland
NBA highlights: 2010 NBA Sixth Man of the Year; averaged career-best 20.6 points per game in 2007-08 as a member of the Knicks; career averages include: 15.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1 spg in 12 NBA seasons.

Joel Pryzbilla — Minnesota, 1998-2000
College highlights: Averaged 14.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and shot a Big Ten-leading 61.3 percent as a sophomore.
NBA draft: First round (No. 9), Houston
NBA highlights: Blocked a career-high 2.3 shots per game in 2005-06; scored a career-high 6.4 points per game in 2004-05; grabbed a career-high 8.7 rebounds per game in 2008-09; career averages include: 55.3 FG%, 4 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 1.5 bpg.

THE GOOD, THE BAD
Were the early jumps worth it? As they say, hindsight is 20-20, and for a bunch of the players listed, they probably wish they had stayed another season, if not two. But there’s still time for several of the guys to prove the naysayers wrong.

And it’s not like the decision to leave early dooms everyone, as Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, Zach Randolph, Kris Humphries, Mike Conley and Eric Gordon all are enjoying successful careers.

Humphries gives Kosta Koufos and Byron Mullens, among others, hope. Things didn’t click right away for the Humphries, playing for three franchises before receiving his first real shot, and now the one-and-done Gopher is one of the league’s most dominant rebounders and a double-double machine.

Can’t wait to see where Leonard and Sullinger land in a couple months. We’ll find out June 28 at the 2012 NBA Draft.

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.

Find out more about:

1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
Ace on 4/4/2012 @ 4:20pm EST Said:

Really cannot forget Jereme Richmond ever, hope he teaches many young freshman a lesson for years to come.