Flaming Bag of Poo sometimes cries during the final refrain of CBS’ annual “One Shining Moment” highlight montage after the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
Not because it’s so emotional.
But because of the sports letdown it signals. Four months of almost nothing but baseball until the NFL exhibition season begins.
Ugh. The agony of defeat (a/k/a baseball’s regular season).
Thank goodness, pro sports have created these artificial events called the “NFL Draft” and the “NBA Draft” so we don’t have to go cold turkey.
The NBA mock draft process started before the season tip-off last fall. Yes, players from Kentucky freshmen center Nerlens Noel, to Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller, were near the top of everyone’s mock draft. Some players even helped themselves more during the regular season.
However, if you watched the 2013 March Madness, you might have noticed a handful of players who seemed to improve their draft prospects the most during that three-week run.
To borrow from the 2013 NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals, you have to RISE TO THE OCCASION.
Let’s take a look at five players who helped themselves most during the tournament:
Mitch McGary – This 6”10 Michigan freshmen center wasn’t even starting until the postseason began.
McGary was the perfect big body for Michigan’s guard-oriented offense. Above average passing skills for a big man. Rebounding. Post defense. Soft hands. Good footwork. With a reputation for inconsistency and foul trouble, McGary managed to avoid trouble until the second half of the championship game. Mitch McGary could turn into another Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies).
Luke Hancock – This 6”6 Louisville junior forward almost single-handedly catapulted Louisville from a 12-point first-half deficit to a second-half win against Michigan.
It would be easy to say that Hancock’s quick trigger three-point shooting is NBA-worthy. But Hancock proved in the tournament that he is tougher than a Kyle Korver or Jason Kapono. Under Rick Pitino, Hancock found the willingness to play solid defense. You have to wonder if any of the taller, longer Syracuse Orangemen can play man-to-man defense as good as Hancock. With a history to two bad shoulder injuries, Hancock certainly shouldered the load and helped lift his team to the championship. Luke Hancock could turn into another Steve Novak (New York Knicks).
Sherwood Brown – This 6”4 Florida Gulf Coast guard-forward may have been the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, but he was probably better known because of his dreadlocks and confident swagger.
At times, it seemed like Brown defended against the opposing team’s best non-center. And then at other times, he was mayor of Dunk City. Do you think the NBA could use a powerfully built 6”4 player who can dunk, shoot three pointers, rebound, and play defense against bigger and quicker players? Sherwood Brown could turn into another Gerald Wallace (Brooklyn Nets).
Ron Baker – This 6”3 Wichita State point guard didn’t even play—much less even start—until mid-March because of injuries.
But Baker weaved through the Louisville pressure defense as though he had seen it every day in practice for years. Baker never had to be the go-to man on a team that saw even production from up-and-down its bench. Still, with his calm leadership of the offense, backcourt rebounding, developing three point shot, and limited turnovers, with more playtime, Baker brings the sort of workman-like approach that helps—more than hurts—any ball club. Ron Baker could turn into another George Hill (Indianapolis Pacers).
Trey Burke – OK, everyone knows about the NCAA Player of the Year.
But this 6”0 Michigan point guard proved that he could rise—instead of wilt—to the level of higher competition and big games. With excellent quickness and ball-handling skills, you want the ball in Burke’s hands to make all the right decisions. And with an outside shot that you have to respect, he can create his own shot at any given time. Did you see that deep game-tying three-pointer against Kansas? Did you see that questionable foul on his nearly game-saving block against Louisville? Burke is a better pro prospect than Kemba Walker after he had carried Connecticut to the championship a few years ago. Trey Burke could turn into another Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers).
These five rising stars gave fans and NBA scouts more than one shining moment.
Cue the music. Because it’s a long four months until we hear MNF’s “Are You Ready For Some Football?”