Texas center Jarrett Allen, left, goes for a shot block against Baylor guard Al Freeman. Allen projects as a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Michael Thomas AP
Texas center Jarrett Allen, left, goes for a shot block against Baylor guard Al Freeman. Allen projects as a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Michael Thomas AP

University of Texas

Longhorns’ center looms as NBA’s top prospect from a Texas college

June 20, 2017 01:08 PM

UPDATED June 20, 2017 05:51 PM

The race to be the first basketball player selected from a college in the Lone Star State should not involve much drama during Thursday’s NBA draft (6 p.m., ESPN).

Most mock drafts and NBA scouts agree that former Texas center Jarrett Allen, who averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his lone season with the Longhorns, will be the first prospect from a Texas college selected by an NBA team. Allen shot 56.6 percent from the field last season as a 6-foot-11 freshman, scoring in double digits 25 times for a Longhorns team that posted an 11-22 record.

Allen projects to be taken in the middle of the first round, with the drama likely to focus on whether he becomes the eighth player in school history to emerge as a lottery pick. Since 2004, a lottery pick has included the top 14 selections in the NBA Draft.

“What I would watch for in this year’s draft is, yeah, to me, the two top guys still remain [Markelle] Fultz and [Lonzo] Ball, very mature young players who are going to have an impact I think,” said Fran Fraschilla, college basketball analyst and international basketball expert, during a conference call earlier this week.

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“And then from three down to nine or 10, you’ve got a combination of three more point guards, a couple of outstanding wing players in [Josh] Jackson and [Jayson] Tatum, and then after nine or 10, you’re going to see a run of young, talented but incomplete young big men starting with Zach Collins, John Collins, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton, right on down the line.”

Based on Tuesday’s projections in two mock drafts, Allen has been targeted to go with the No. 16 pick (Chicago) or No. 17 pick (Milwaukee). Texas’ last lottery pick was forward Myles Turner, a Euless Trinity graduate taken with the No. 11 pick by Indiana in the 2015 draft.

Most NBA scouts rank Allen among the top three centers.

Former SMU forward Semi Ojeleye earned a first-round projection in the mock draft by draftexpress.com (No. 25 pick, Orlando) but slipped to the second round in a projection by NBAdraft.net (No. 34 pick, Sacramento). Ojeleye, who began his college career at Duke, averaged 19 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season for the Mustangs.

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Both mock drafts project a second-round selection for former Baylor forward Johnathan Motley, who averaged 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game last season for the Bears.

Among players with Texas connections, the highest-rated prospect is former Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who played at Cypress Lakes High School in suburban Houston. As a freshman, Fox averaged 16.7 points and 4.6 assists per game. He projects as a consensus top-six pick, which means the Dallas Mavericks (No. 9 selection) probably would need to trade up in Thursday’s first round in order to land Fox.

“De’Aaron has certainly created a buzz, not only because of his speed and the way he played this season, but as you know, he has a magnetic personality that at worst is going to sell a lot of shoes if he becomes a good player in the NBA; and at best, it’s going to make him one of the elite point guards in the NBA someday,” Fraschilla said.

The Mavericks’ midseason acquisition of Nerlens Noel, a 23-year-old center taken No. 6 overall in the 2013 draft, probably eliminates Dallas as a future NBA home for Allen. But if he’s taken among the first 14 picks, Allen would join a list of Longhorns lottery selections that includes Kevin Durant (No. 2 pick in 2007), LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2 pick in 2006), Tristan Thompson (No. 4 pick in 2011), Chris Mihm (No. 7 pick in 2000), T.J. Ford (No. 8 pick in 2003), D.J. Augustin (No. 9 pick in 2008) and Turner.

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch