2007 NBA Draft Preview: Hokie Hopefuls

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Virginia Tech will be without the services of three career 1,000 point
scorers this coming season. All three players took Virginia Tech basketball to
new heights over the course of the last four years, and now they are looking to
advance to the next level of basketball. With the NBA Draft coming up on
Thursday night, one or two of them might have a chance.

The fact that TSL is doing an NBA Draft Preview says a lot about how far the
program has come under Seth Greenberg. It also says a lot about the talent and
willingness to work hard of the players listed below.

Zabian
Dowdell, 6-3, 191, PG/SG

Zabian Dowdell had a great senior season for Virginia Tech. He averaged 17.4
points per game on his way to earning First Team All-ACC honors, as well as
being named Honorable Mention All-American. He developed into one of the top
players in the ACC and led his team to Tech’s first NCAA tournament berth since
1996. Since the season ended, Dowdell has graduated from Virginia Tech and spent
a lot of time on the road to work out for NBA teams.

According to Mark Berman’s Roanoke
Times article of June 26
, Dowdell has worked out for the Miami Heat, San
Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, Golden
State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks. The reigning NBA
Champs, the Spurs, were so impressed that they brought him back for a second
workout.

Dowdell began his Pre-Draft training by participating in the Portsmouth
Invitational, where it was reported that he was arguably the top player in
attendance. He then traveled to Florida, his home state, where he took part in
David Thorpe’s program at IMG Academy. He trained there with players such as J.R.
Reynolds (UVA), Ron Lewis (Ohio State), Justin Cage (Xavier) and Avis Wyatt
(Virginia State).

According to reports by DraftExpress.com, Dowdell blew up at Thorpe’s camp,
where he not only earned a reputation for being a talented player, but a very
coachable one. According to DraftExpress.com: “Thorpe considers him ‘the
most sure-fire pro in my gym,’ and raves about the way he’s responded to his
training so far.”

Dowdell’s performances earned him an invitation to the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in
Orlando, where he also did well. His measured wingspan of 6″-9.5′ impressed
scouts and GMs, and it helped him play lock down defense during the four days of
the camp.

Dowdell went into the Pre-Draft Camp with the mindset of showing that he can
be a point guard in the NBA, rather than the scorer he was in college.
Apparently he succeeded, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 4 to 1.
Although he didn’t score as much as he did at previous camps, he showed the
ability to successfully run a team.

For the most part, Dowdell is simply solid in every phase of the game. He
does not have great speed or athleticism for the NBA level, although he
certainly is not bad in that respect. He relies on his superior strength and
body control. One part of the game where Dowdell excels is his mid-range,
pull-up jumper. He had it on display at every camp over the last couple of
months.

The biggest question about Dowdell is where he fits on an NBA roster. He is
too small to be a shooting guard in the NBA. However, for a point guard he is
physically impressive. But is he a natural point? Not at this stage, but that
doesn’t mean he can’t develop into one.

Dowdell is an intriguing NBA prospect. He appears to be capable of coming off
the bench and effectively running an NBA offense, but it’s hard to evaluate his
long-term potential as a possible starter in the NBA. There is some serious
interest from the San Antonio Spurs with their first round pick (#28), but don’t
expect that to happen. They have another pick at #33, in the early second round,
and Dowdell will likely still be available then.

Dowdell could potentially go anywhere in the second round, although
early-to-mid second is looking more and more likely. Although not everyone is a
believer. The Raleigh News and Observer ran an article Wednesday morning that
covered how
ACC players stack up
in the draft. Dowdell was not included.

Coleman
Collins, 6-9, 236, PF

Coleman Collins looked like a much better NBA prospect at this time last
year. As a senior, he averaged just 7.8 points per game, the lowest output of
his career. His average of 4.8 rebounds per game was the lowest since his
freshman season. He looked lost, hurt, ineffective, and nothing like an NBA
player.

However, because of how he played in the past, NBA teams still voted to issue
Collins an invitation to their Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando. Collins accepted, and
by doing so he turned his chances of being drafted from none to an outside
chance.

The NBA Pre-Draft Camp featured many top players who will be drafted on
Thursday, but Collins was one of the top players in the camp. He led the camp in
scoring, averaging 17.7 points per game on 54.3% shooting. He also averaged 5.3
rebounds per game, two assists per game, and shot 75% from the free throw line.
Collins showed an aggressiveness that was not on display his senior season at
Tech, and he showed range on his jumper out to 20 feet.

He was able to play his natural position of power forward in Orlando, and he
did well. He’s not a back-to-the-basket player like he was used in Blacksburg.
He likes to face up and shoot the jumper and use finesse moves to score. He is
not a center that will turn around and lay it in over big guys.

Collins was also impressive in some of his workouts. He had a vertical jump
of 35 inches, and his 21 bench press reps of 185 pounds was one of the best in
the camp.

Still, there are a lot of questions about Collins. Can he maintain NBA-level
intensity for 82 games? Can he stay healthy? He suffered through nagging leg
injuries during his senior season at Tech.

Collins improved his stock dramatically in Orlando, though it probably won’t
be enough to get him drafted. But he is likely to land on a summer league team,
and if he does well there, he could be invited to a preseason camp. However,
Collins can most likely expect to spend a year in the NBDL or overseas.

Jamon
Gordon, 6-3, 215, PG

Jamon Gordon, for all his merits as a college player, will have to
dramatically improve his jump shot to have a chance to play in the NBA. He has
the defensive skills, the ball handling, and he finishes well inside, but his
jumper is neither deep enough or consistent enough to stick on an NBA roster at
this point.

That said, he did spend a lot of time in the offseason working on it, and he
was invited to workout by a lot of NBA teams. According to Mark Berman of the
Roanoke Times, the following teams invited Gordon to work out: the Portland
Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Washington
Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets. The Mavericks brought him back for a
second workout.

Although the Mavericks clearly like him, Gordon is an extreme long shot to
get drafted. Look for him to be on an NBDL team this season, or perhaps play in
Europe. The more he can improve his shot, the better chance he’ll have at the
next level.

Mock Drafts

As usual, there are plenty of mock drafts that try to project the NBA Draft.
We’ve compiled some of them, and here’s how they view Tech’s NBA prospects.

NBA
Draft Projections
Site Zabian
Dowdell
Coleman
Collins
Jamon
Gordon

DraftExpress.com
Pick 40 N/A N/A

NBADraft.net
N/A Pick 58 N/A

ESPN.com
Pick 33 N/A N/A

CNNSI.com
Pick 60 N/A N/A

Peter Schrager (Fox Sports)
Pick 38 N/A N/A

ProBasketballNews.com
Pick 28 N/A N/A

CollegeHoopsNet.com
Pick 48 N/A N/A

RealGM.com
N/A N/A N/A

MSNBC.com
N/A N/A Pick 28

There are 30 picks per round. ProBasketballNews.com is the highest on Dowdell,
and they have him going to the Spurs with Pick 28 in the first round. Although a
few sites don’t have him going at all, if the NBA Champs are considering him for
their first round pick, he’s likely going to be drafted somewhere.

I can’t figure out MSNBC.com. There is no way Jamon Gordon is going to the
Spurs in the first round. I figured it was a misprint, but the short blurb
included all of Gordon’s stats as well, not Dowdell’s. Still, I think the writer
is getting the two mixed up for some reason. Gordon didn’t even get an invite to
the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando.

It appears that Dowdell will become Virginia Tech’s first NBA Draft selection
since Eddie Lucas in 1999. Lucas was selected with the final pick of the draft
by the Utah Jazz. CNNSI also has Zabian Dowdell going to the Mavericks with the
last pick of this year’s draft.

To see how the Tech guys fare in the draft, tune in to ESPN on Thursday night
at 7 pm.

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