PROVIDENCE, RI - It seems unlikely that the BIG EAST will match last year's 2-round record of 11 NBA Draft picks, but plenty of former BIG EAST stars are ready to make the next step in Thursday's draft.
Consensus All-American and NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player Kemba Walker figures to be the first BIG EAST player taken.
But as Julian Benbow writes in the Boston Globe, opinions on where the 6-foot-1-inch Walker will be selected vary greatly.
Recently, Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun and assistant (and former NBA player) Kevin Ollie talked about Walker's pro potential.
Providence's Marshon Brooks - who notched a BIG EAST record 52 points in a game this year against Notre Dame has also established himself as a potential lottery pick. NBADraft.net says his prolific scoring (second in the nation to Jimmer Fredette of BYU) make him one of the year's best sleeper picks.
Syracuse forward Rick Jackson slimmed down prior to the 2010-11 season and now projects as a second round pick that can play excellent defense and rebound.
Another prospect is Marquette's Jimmy Butler. The 6-foot-1-inch swingman impressed with a recent MVP performance at the Portsmouth Invitational - a tournament for NBA hopefuls.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford wrote a great profile of Butler's difficult upbringing and the redemption he found at Marquette.
Among other former BIG EAST stars hoping to hear their names called Thursday night are Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee of Pittsburgh, BIG EAST Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, Corey Fisher of Villanova, Dwight Hardy of St. John's and Georgetown's Austin Freeman. Now it's your turn BIG EAST fans, vote on who you think is the best BIG EAST prospect and give us a shout on facebook (www.facebook.com/bigeastconference) or Twitter @bigeastmbb.