Leading up to the annual draft, football prospects everywhere are dealing with a unique pre-draft process that we’ve never seen before. Athletes are taking to social media to promote their skill sets and teams around the league will rely on these Instagram workouts to see who is staying in shape and who’s not. This makes life a bit tougher for lesser-known draft hopefuls, so today we’re highlighting five possible sleeper picks that could be undervalued in this year’s draft, but have the potential to make an immediate impact for their future teams on the field.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
In just about any other draft, Mims wouldn’t be considered a sleeper because of his experience (three-year starter at Baylor), size (6’3”, 207 lbs), and athleticism (4.38 40-yard dash, 6.66 3-cone drill). However, this year’s wide receiver class is loaded with talent such as CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and many others, meaning Mims could easily fall to the early second round and become a steal for one lucky team. Overall, Mims boasts insane straight-line speed and demonstrates the ability to go up and get the ball when needed. He’s in the perfect scenario to be first-round talent who gets overlooked during the draft process and break out immediately once he enters the league.
Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
Playing for an undervalued program at Wyoming, Logan Wilson will probably fly under the radar for most teams picking in the first couple rounds. But what the average eye didn’t see during his four years in college is that Wilson is an elite-level tackler with unteachable intangibles that could be a huge help for any team looking for consistent, solid production from down to down. The three-year captain might not have the level of output in the pros because of his lack of athleticism to cover pro-caliber receivers and tight ends, but, if he’s still available in the later rounds, he shouldn’t be overlooked.
K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
Another late-round wide receiver steal to look at is K.J. Hill out of Ohio State. He predominantly played slot receiver in his last two years in college but made his presence known in almost every single game. Even after having three different starting quarterbacks in his last three years, Hill ended up setting the school record in catches (21), breaking David Boston’s 21-year-old mark. Hill won’t overpower at the pro level, however, he does posses all the traits to continue his slot dominance with a professional team. As stated before, this is an extremely deep wideout class, so if a team can scoop up Hill in the fourth or fifth round, they could be landing themselves a longtime slot starter.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Hurts isn’t your traditional sleeper pick, since everyone and anyone who’s watched college football knows his name. After playing in the National Championship at Alabama, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and set the college world ablaze by compiling 3,851 passing yards and 1,298 rushing yards in his lone year as the starter there. Questions continue to pop up about his passing skill set and questionable decision-making, especially at the next level where he’ll face more athletic defenders. Still, Hurts has the potential to be a dangerous, dual-threat option with a low-risk, high-reward pick after the top-tier quarterbacks are off the board.
Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
As a four-year starter for Oregon, Dye will undoubtedly bring his experience and his knowledge of the game to the next level. He was originally a safety recruit out of high school and uses his speed and excellent athleticism to predict and plug up holes in the run game. Scouts have noted his lack of size at the linebacker position and injury history as potential concerns, but if Dye plays with as much ferocity as he did in his four years at Oregon, he’ll definitely be a nice hybrid plugin to any scheme at the professional level.
As these prospects keep grinding to make a name for themselves, they rely on the best gear in the game. Check out eastbay.com for a full selection of football and training footwear, equipment, and apparel.
words & images_Zac Dubasik
In preparation for the upcoming NBA draft, this week, we are taking a look at some of the players to watch for next college season. One of these players is Kendall Marshall, who we met up with at the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic.
High School: Bishop O’Connell High School; Arlington, VA
Hometown: Dumfries, VA
College: North Carolina
Court vision and leadership are about as important as it gets for a true point guard, and those are some of the aspects of Kendall Marshall’s game that helped land him a spot at the University of North Carolina. After averaging double digits in the assist department his senior season, Marshall hopes to be a difference-maker in his freshman season as a Tar Heel with his excellent hoops IQ.
Zac Dubasik: How did your senior season go, and how did you end up finding out you were chosen to play in the Jordan Brand Classic?
Kendall Marshall: My senior season had some rough spots, but we ended up on a high note, winning the state championship, which was great. Being invited to this game was like icing on the cake for me. I got the call about a week before they put it on TV, and I was very excited.
How does the Jordan Brand Classic stack up to any of the other all-star games you’ve played in?
The Jordan Brand game is definitely more appealing, because it is Michael Jordan. And the prestige of playing at Madison Square Garden is unlike any other event, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Have you been a Jordan Brand and sneaker fan for a long time?
I’ve always been a die-hard Jordan collector. I have a shoe fetish, and I love buying Jordans. One of my goals, if I’m someday able to make it to the NBA, is to be on Team Jordan.
And you are going to the University of North Carolina for college, which is a Jordan Brand school, so you’ll be able to keep wearing them there.
I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Do you have any personal goals for your freshman season?
My personal goals for my first year at North Carolina are that I definitely want to start. Hopefully I can be on the All-ACC freshman team. I want to make it to the Final Four as a freshman and just have a successful season.
Was making it to games like this a goal during your high school career?
Without a doubt. You play with these guys all over during the summer, and you know that one of the biggest goals is to make these all-star games. So just to see each other again, and see that we are all working hard to get to that next point is our motivation.
words & images_Zac Dubasik
The final player in our series of incoming college freshman interviews may be the most exciting (and best) Duke recruit in recent memory. This week’s draft will see plenty of one-and-done players chosen near the top, something you never expect from Blue Devils players. If Erving lives up to his potential next season though, and chooses to make a quick exit to the NBA, don’t be surprised to hear his name among the most talked about come draft time in 2011.
High School: St. Patrick High School; Elizabeth, NJ
After averaging 27 points, 7 boards and 7 assists per game in his senior season, Kyrie Irving was viewed by many as the top point guard of the 2010 class. After seeing his spectacular performance at the Jordan Brand Classic, where he was named co-MVP, it only strengthened his case for that claim. His play was so impressive that it only seems right that he would be heading to join the defending National Champion Duke Blue Devils next season. Sole Collector was able to catch up with Erving to talk kicks, college and about his time at the JBC.
Zac Dubasik: How did you first learn that you’d been chosen to be part of the Jordan Brand Classic?
Kyrie Irving: My father told me. Someone told him, so he found out before I found out. But once I found out, I was happy.
Are tournaments like this something you thought about during your senior season?
From the beginning of the season – like H. White talked about, writing down your goals – I had a goal list from my freshman season all the way up until now. This was one of the goals I wanted to attain at the end of the season.
How does this game compare to the other national games you played in?[Irving also competed in the McDonalds All-American game and Nike Hoop Summit]
This one is so special, because this is the last game of my high school career. This is very special for me, and especially to experience it with all these guys here – they are all great guys. We all have so much fun because we all get along together. That’s very special to me and to be picked for this game is an honor.
So have you actually known a lot of these players from prior to this game?
I know all of them – I know every personality here. I myself am like one of the leaders here, and everybody has their own personality. And we are all special in our own way.
When did you make the decision to go to Duke?
I decided last October. I committed on ESPNU. And once I chose Duke, that felt like the best decision of my life.
What’s it like to play your senior season already knowing you’ve made it to such a big school at the next level? When you’ve already made it like that, what keeps you motivated?
Personally, for me, I’m self-motivated. You always want better for yourself. There’s always someone working, so you have to keep that in mind. Everybody here is trying to make it, so what are you going to do to separate yourself from everybody? That’s something I take into account all the time – just to separate myself. Whether it’s getting up at 6am taking shots early, or working out after practice, or getting those extra shots up. Not everybody is going to do it. Greatness isn’t for everybody.
Do you have any expectations for your first season in college?
You know, my expectations are probably exceeded by Coach K’s. Coach K probably expects more than I expect for myself. I plan on making him happy, but also making myself happy. The next level is going to be very difficult in the beginning, and I’m going to have some trial and errors. I’m just going to get back up and continue to grow. That’s what it’s all about.
Are there any big changes you are expecting as you transition from the high school to college game?
Everybody talks about the pace of the game, but the thing most people don’t talk about is time management. That’s the most important thing in college. No one is there to tell you to make your bed or do your homework. So time management and being disciplined is one of the most important things for adjusting to college.
Have you been a Jordan Brand fan for a long time?
Jordan Brand is my favorite sneaker. Come to my house – I am a shoe collector, and I have most of the Jordans.
Do you have a favorite Jordan?
I like the XIs. I like the all white XIs, the grey XIs, the original ones. And the Space Jams. The Space Jams are the hardest ones to find. I still can’t find them. But I have the grey ones, white ones and the all black ones with the red bottoms. But I can’t find the Space Jams.
Are you constantly on the lookout for new sneakers?
Definitely. I’m always looking for a new pair of sneakers, either to give as a gift to someone or for myself.
Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to about this weekend’s game?
Just having fun. This is my last high school event. I’m just relaxed – more relaxed than I was at the McDonalds game or the Hoop Summit. I’m at home basically. I live right over the bridge, so this is my home, and I’m gonna end it right.
words & images_Zac Dubasik
The 2010 NBA draft will be held Thursday night, and there is a lot of excitement around this year’s class. Players like John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins have already become household names for hoops fans, and will look to make an immediate impact on their pro teams next season.
Who are the next big names to watch for in college though? Sole Collector had a chance to catch up with some of this year’s best high school seniors at the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic, and this week we’ll feature interviews of players to watch next college season. First up is Will Barton:
High School: Brewster Academy; Wolfeboro, NH
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
College: University of Memphis
While Will Barton’s offensive numbers from high school were impressive (24 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG), his commitment to defense helped make him even more attractive to scouts, which ultimately earned him a spot at the University of Memphis. Barton helped lead his high school team to a national prep championship his senior season, and provided some of the best aerial highlights of the JBC weekend. With his extremely well-rounded game, Barton hopes to be an immediate difference-maker at Memphis.
Zac Dubasik: How did you feel when you found out you were selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic?
Will Barton: Ah man, it was wonderful. Because getting to play for Michael Jordan’s brand, who’s the greatest player of all time, that’s got to be the best all-star game around. Who doesn’t want to play for the greatest? I was very honored, humbled and excited.
How do you compare the JBC to Hoop Summit?[Barton played in the Nike-sponsored Hoop Summit the previous weekend.]
The Hoop Summit was great – I played for my country, the USA. But like I said, this is Michael Jordan, and I’ll pick that over anything, any day.
Does your love for MJ and Jordan Brand go way back?
Michael Jordan was my favorite player growing up. Now I’m a Kobe fan, because he reminds me of Mike. Everybody in Baltimore, we love Jordan sneakers, Jordan everything.
Have you been a sneaker fan for a long time?
Yeah – you gotta make sure your sneakers are right.
Do you have any favorites?
I love the Jordan XIIs and the Dub Zeros.
What kicks did you wear for games during high school?
This year, Jordans and Nikes. That’s it. I can’t play in anything else.
Do you have any goals or expectations coming into the JBC?
I have huge expectations. I want to show that I’m the best player here, that I’m a good teammate and that I’m also a good person off the court. I want to develop relationships with the players, the staff and the media, and let it be known that Will Barton is here.
When did you decide you were going to Memphis?
Last summer. I committed June 6th.
How soon do you start working out and getting ready to play there?
I actually start summer school down there June 6th. I graduate high school May 24th, go home to Baltimore for a couple weeks, and boom, right down there to Memphis for summer school.
What are your goals for your freshman season at Memphis?
I’ve got big goals. First is to get it done in the classroom, of course. And then to just work on my game, all day, everyday, to get better and stronger. We want to make a run at that National Championship next year in Memphis. I just want to get it done, win the conference and win a lot of games.
What types of changes in the game are you expecting at the next level?
I’ve talked to a lot of college players and they say the game is faster. But the best players still get to stay at their pace. If you are really good, you will get to stay at your pace. The game is going to speed up, but it should look slow for you. I’m going to have to adjust to that. Of course it’s going to be more physical, with bigger and older guys. You aren’t always going to be the best player on the court every game like in high school. I’m just trying to get myself mentally prepared, because in college, no matter who you are, no matter how good you are – whether you are the number-one player in the country like Evan Turner or John Wall, you are still going to have ups and downs in college and you are going to hit that wall.
Do you think you will look back at this game and your expe
rience this weekend with Jordan Brand as an important part of your journey if you are able to move on to the next level after college?
Yes sir. A lot of NBA players have come through [the JBC]. Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul – you name it. A lot of great players have been through it. So of course, if I were to make the NBA, I know a lot of other NBA players have made this game, so I’ll always have something to look back at.
Did the chance to play in games like this give you motivation during your high school career?
Oh yeah. In high school ball, when you are one of the high ranked players and getting invited to all of these games and everyone knows you, you are kind of a big target. So, I just wanted to make sure every night when I was going into one of my games, I knew there is someone there that never saw me play and had only heard of me — I wanted to make sure I impressed them. I wanted them to get the real Will Barton and I wasn’t out there sluggish. I wanted everyone to leave that gym saying “Will Barton is a hell of a player and he’s a great person.” That was my goal right there.