The top candidates vying to advance their athletic career are Indiana center Cody Zeller, Duke center (and Warsaw native) Mason Plumlee, and former Bishop Luers High School standout Deshaun Thomas, who left Ohio State this spring following his junior season.
Each of those three players will be participating in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago today and tomorrow. The workout sessions will air on ESPNU from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the case of Zeller and Plumlee, both big men are regarded as locks to be chosen in the early to mid-first round, while Thomas is projected to be a second round selection.
“Mason is coming in NBA ready,” Northwestern men's basketball coach Chris Collins said. “To me, he's not a potential guy, he is a guy that is there, he's ready to help a team right away, and I think that will make him very appealing to teams that are drafting.”
Collins spent the past four seasons coaching Plumlee as an assistant with Duke and he stressed that the 6-foot-11, 245-pound Plumlee developed as most big players do, gradually, but ultimately displayed an impressive arsenal of basketball skills this past season.
“Look at how much better he's gotten over the years,” Collins explained, “from his freshman year compared to this past year, where he was national big man of the year and averaged a double-double every night.”
Plumlee proved to be very productive (17 points and 10 rebounds per game), which was something that his older brother, Miles Plumlee, didn't prove to be at Duke. However, that didn't stop the Indiana Pacers from choosing Miles a year ago with their first round selection (26th overall).
“(The brothers) are a little bit different,” Collins said. “Mason is probably a little more polished. Miles was probably a better raw athlete.”
Miles stunned NBA executives with his display of athleticism during workouts for teams a year ago leading up to the 2012 Draft. But Collins said that Mason won't disappoint NBA teams athletically.
“Miles is a freak athlete,” Collins said. “He's a world-class athlete. Mason is not quite the athlete that Miles is, but still is an outstanding athlete. That's the one thing with the Plumlee's that you get at 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11, you get world-class athletes, which in the NBA is something that you don't see as often.”
Duke battled season-long injuries to senior guard Seth Curry, who played with a stress fracture all season long, as well as senior forward Ryan Kelly, who missed a significant portion of the season. Collins said that it was Plumlee that carried the squad when it was undermanned.
“Mason pretty much put us on his back and led us,” Collins said. “He was the mainstay the whole year that led us to 30 victories and an Elite Eight (appearance).”