2012 NBA Draft Combine Coverage: Vanderbilt to See Three Commodores Taken in NBA Draft - June 22
With three players set to get picked in the NBA Draft next week, you may be asking yourself how did the Vanderbilt Commodores not win more NCAA Tournament games the past couple years? Why weren't they ranked higher? What was their coaching staff doing? John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli and Jeffrey Taylor are all in the same projected draft range.
"I think we're all in the same boat, in that late first round, early second; we're all different positions," said Jenkins at the NBA Combine a couple weeks ago.
Vanderbilt may not be known as a college basketball powerhouse program, but each of these individuals benefit from having each other to lean on in this process.
"It's kind of incredible because we play hard together, practice together; we're good friends," said Jenkins. "We're not just guys that tolerate each other; we're always around each other."
Ezeli crushed the Vanderbilt school record for career blocked shots and talked about what his biggest strength is as a player. "I'm a defensive minded player so I've been watching a lot of tape on guys, and I see similarities between me and Serge Ibaka. I like help side defense a lot. I play for my teammates." He also mentioned another player for which he's likely to draw comparisons. "I see a lot of similarities with Nene, and a number of players."
Ezeli graduated from high school in Nigeria at age 14, but didn't start playing basketball until later in life. He was even cut from his high school team. That was just a minor bump in the road as the 6-11, 265-pound big man came back and did high school again in America. "When I went back to high school, it was actually remedial for me because it was accelerated over there," he said of the experience.
Ezeli will be drafted solely due to his size alone. While he isn't a stiff by any means inside, he does not possess a ton of skill on offense, which projects him to be a backup at the next level. Ezeli battled injury early in his senior season which sort of stunted his growth some, but because NBA teams are always in need of some size inside, he will get drafted possibly as high as late in the first round. More than likely, he'll fall into the second round.
Jenkins, who shot 44 percent from distance in his junior season, is arguably the best shooter in the draft. His range starts as soon as he walks in the gym, but in order to maximize his potential at the next level, he needs to improve his ability off the bounce.
Taylor steadily improved his three-point shot throughout his four years in Nashville. He connected on just 9.1 percent of his triple tries as a sophomore, but that number tremendously improved to 42.3 percent as a senior. The Sweden-born small forward also possesses elite athleticism and has the potential to be a lockdown defender who could guard multiple positions.
Wherever the trio ends up being selected, they will undoubtedly make their alma mater proud. It will be just the second time in school history that three Commodores were chosen in the same year, with the lone occurrence happening back in 1974 when there were ten rounds in the draft.