BNN: Big East rookies taking NBA by storm

Mike Zipf

Astonishingly, 11 of the 60 players chosen in this year’s NBA draft came from the 16 teams of the Big East Conference. Seven Big East players were chosen in the first round, including Villanova guards Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry. Foye was the first Big East player chosen in the draft when the Boston Celtics selected him as the 7th overall pick. However, Foye changed destinations twice before the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired his rights. Fellow guard Lowry headed to Memphis after the Grizzlies selected him as the 24th selection, thus marking the first time in history when two Villanova teammates were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. The University of Connecticut became the third school in NBA history to have four players selected in the first round of the draft, joining Duke and North Carolina. In fact, two Huskies were drafted by the same team; the New Jersey Nets drafted guard Marcus Williams with the 22nd pick and Josh Boone with the 23th selection.

While in the NBA, these Big East rookies enjoyed resounding success and took the league by storm. Memphis forward Rudy Gay led the way. A Preseason First Team All-Rookie Player, Gay began to live up to the potential about which college coaches and NBA scouts raved. Gay currently leads the Grizzlies in blocks with 1.1 blocks per game and averages 8.5 ppg and 4.5 apg. Lowry has also enjoyed a successful first season, although it was short-lived and marred by a broken wrist that will bench him indefinitely. Lowry provided the Grizzlies with an immediate spark off the bench, including a 10-rebound output in his first NBA game. Prior to the injury, the Villanova guard had averaged 5.6 ppg, 3.4 apg and 1.4 spg.

Randy Foye is enjoying a solid first year, especially now that his playing time and points per game have progressively increased. Many experts believed that Foye would capture the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award prior to the season. During the NBA Summer League, Foye lived up to the experts’ assertions as he captured the league’s scoring title.

The surprise of this year’s draft was Marcus Williams’ downfall. Projected by many experts to be a top-10 pick, Williams slipped down to New Jersey as the 22nd pick. However, Williams has lived up to his pre-draft hype and proved himself to the other teams. Serving as Jason Kidd’s back-up, Williams has flourished in this role, averaging 8.7 ppg and 2.7 apg. Unfortunately for the Nets, Connecticut teammate Josh Boone has yet to play because of a shoulder injury. Boone was expected to provide a major presence in New Jersey’s lackluster frontcourt.

Boone’s frontcourt counterpart from last season’s Elite Eight Connecticut Huskies team, Hilton Armstrong, provides the New Orleans Hornets with great size and presence off the bench, averaging 4 ppg and 4 rpg.

Although Villanova guard Allan Ray was snubbed in the NBA Draft, he has made the most of his free agent contract with the Boston Celtics. At this time, Ray has seen limited playing time; however, during the NBA Summer League he showed flashes of brilliance, averaging close to 14 ppg.

Another surprise has been the effectiveness of Marquette forward Steve Novak, who was drafted by the Houston Rockets. Early in the season, Novak provided a spark off the bench, displaying the excellent shooting touch that made him so potent in college.

Unfortunately, second-round draft picks Solomon Jones, James White and Denham Brown, along with first round draft pick Quincy Douby, have seen limited action and produced minimal results.

Ultimately, when one looks around the league this year, one will see a tremendous display of talented Big East players who have dominated college basketball and are now leaving their marks in the NBA. Don’t be surprised when NBA Rookie of the Year Award is announced, and the recipient of the award is a former Big East player, because these rookies are taking the NBA by storm.