Six college stars who said nay to the NBA

BY foxsports • November 26, 2010

Kentucky lost five players to the first round of the NBA draft, star freshman John Wall among them. Mid-major hero Gordon Hayward bolted Butler early, too, and so did AP player of the year Evan Turner of Ohio State.

With so many talented young players and a potential NBA lockout looming, college basketball suffered a mass exodus of players leaving school early after the 2009-10 season.

A handful did buck the trend, though, deciding college life was just too much fun to pass up. Their teams are a whole lot better because of it.

Here's a look at six stars who decided to stay:

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Jimmer Fredette, BYU. With the name, the game and a knack for late-game heroics, Fredette became a fan favorite around the country. A sweet shooter who toughened up his game by playing against inmates at New York prisons, Fredette averaged 22 points as a junior and led the Cougars to a school-record 30 wins and the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993. The 6-foot-2 guard drew some attention by lighting Arizona up for 49 points during the regular season and became a bona fide star by scoring 37 points and hitting one big shot after another in the Cougars' double-OT win over Florida in the first round of the NCAAs. He worked out for a few NBA teams before deciding to withdraw his name from the draft. A preseason All-American, Jimmer - real name James - is still jammin' for No. 23 BYU.

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Kalin Lucas, Michigan State. It wasn't too tough of a decision for Lucas to come back for his senior season; he tore his Achilles' tendon in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Despite his injury, though, there were plenty of NBA teams interested in one of college basketball's most dynamic guards. Lucas averaged a career-best 14.8 points and four assists as a junior, earning all-Big Ten honors for the second straight season. Along with teammates Durrell Summers and Draymond Green, he wanted to come back for a national title, like Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson did in 1999-2000, when they lifted the Spartans to their first NCAA title since Magic Johnson led them to their first in 1979. This season, led by Lucas, No. 2 Michigan State is one of the favorites to win it all.

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Kyle Singler, Duke. Singler had a chance for the perfect exit. Instead, the 6-foot-8 forward came back for a shot at another title. As a junior last season, Singler averaged nearly 18 points and seven rebounds while leading the Blue Devils into the NCAA tournament. Once they got there, Singler was singular, earning most outstanding player honors as Duke won its fourth national championship. With good range and ball-handling skills, Singler figured to be a first-round NBA pick, if he came out. He and teammate Nolan Smith chose to stick around, hoping to join Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill in the elite group of players to win two titles at Duke. The Blue Devils opened the season No. 1, so he seems to be on the right track.

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Jacob Pullen, Kansas State. Fear the Beard became a familiar refrain in tiny Manhattan, where basketball was popular again after years of dormancy. With his scraggily beard, cool head and almost-to-halfcourt shooting range, Pullen was one of college basketball's dynamic forces as a junior. He averaged nearly 20 points a game and broke the school record with 110 3-pointers and 67 steals, leading the Wildcats to a school-record 29 wins and a trip to the regional semifinals for the first time in nearly two decades. Pullen didn't seem to give the NBA too much consideration and his return has made Kansas State, not rival Kansas, the team to beat in the Big 12. A preseason All-American, Pullen led the No. 4 Wildcats to their highest preseason ranking ever and has expectations soaring in the Little Apple.

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Keith Benson, Oakland (Mich). Benson has the NBA body and the NBA game. He just wasn't ready to leave, in part because of a thumb injury that required offseason surgery. The 6-foot-11 center caught the attention of pro scouts, most there to watch Cole Aldrich and the rest of Kansas' NBA prospects, by holding his own against the Jayhawks' long-armed center. Benson went on to average over 17 points per game, set single-season school records with 367 rebounds and 117 blocks, and was the Summit League player of the year while leading the Golden Grizzlies into the NCAA tournament. Benson considered working out for NBA teams in the offseason, but he wasn't projected to be a high pick and had the thumb injury. As a senior, Benson is one of the best big men in the country and is developing into an NBA first-round prospect.

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Kevin Anderson, Richmond. Anderson's shooting and quickness was a key reason Richmond had one of the best seasons in school history. As a junior, the 6-foot guard from Atlanta was the Atlantic 10 player of the year, averaging 17.8 points while leading the Spiders to a school-record 26 wins and an NCAA tournament berth. Anderson declared for the NBA draft, but didn't hire an agent, opening the door for a return. He wasn't projected to be a high pick and decided to come back, hoping the exposure to NBA talent evaluators will move him up the draft list next year. Anderson's return is one of the reasons Richmond is a popular pick to make a mid-major mark this season.

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Honorable mention: Marcus Morris, Kansas; Alex Tyus, Florida; E'Twaun Moore and JuJuan Johnson, Purdue; Lavoy Allen, Temple; LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor.


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