Why the NBA is down on Downey


Look out, Lexington. Devan Downey is at Rupp Arena tonight and you know what that means. The last time South Carolina's little big scoring machine took on Kentucky he knocked the No. 1 Wildcats off the national pedestal.

On national TV, no less.

Downey, in the Gamecocks' 68-62 upset on Jan. 26, scored 30 points. The 5-9 senior point guard from Chester was the star of a game featuring perhaps the top two picks in the 2010 NBA draft, Kentucky freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

He deserves the Southeastern Conference player of the year honors and is up for the Wooden Award and Naismith Award.

For all his glory, Downey probably won't be selected in the two rounds of the NBA draft in June, nor play in the league at all.

What a shame. The stagnant NBA would be a lot more fun if teams took chances on guys like Devan Downey. But three NBA scouts interviewed about Downey sounded as if speaking with one voice: Plenty of heart, not enough height.

The scouts, all of whom have seen Downey play in person this season, insisted on anonymity.

Scout A: "The size thing is really going to hurt him. He's really put up some big numbers and against some good teams. But the question with him is, will he be able to come out and be a true point guard where he doesn't have to score? Remember, he's been a scorer his whole life."

Scout B: "I don't know if he's really 5-9, either. Maybe 5-8."

Scout C: "Is he 5-9? No more than 5-10. That tall? He is very, very fast. But that isn't as much a factor in the NBA because it's so much more of a halfcourt game."

All three scouts predicted Downey will go undrafted.

Scout A: "But he can play in Europe and stay there and make a lot of money over a lot of years."

There are a dozen or more credible drafts online and Downey doesn't make the cut.

A 22.7 scoring average -- tops in the SEC and double that of the next highest- scoring Gamecock (Brandis Raley-Ross) -- evidently is not enough.

Scout A: "True, he's improved in a lot of areas. But those two injuries (to Dominique Archie and the departed Mike Holmes) really hurt him. The situation just changed so much. He wasn't originally going to have to do so much but now, for (South Carolina) to have a chance to win, they have to let him go."

Scout B: "He will not score inside in the NBA. At the other end, he will be scored upon inside."

'He competes'

NBA coaches study DVDs constantly in search of post-up mismatch opportunities. A 5-9 target sticks out.

You can count the list of current NBA players under 6-0 on one hand. They include 5-5 crowd favorite Earl Boykins (Washington), 5-9 slam dunk champ Nate Robinson (Boston) and 5-11 former North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson (Denver).

On the plus side, the scouts are well aware of Downey's tenacity and that he turns it up against the best teams. His scoring average against SEC foes is 27.7 points per game.

Scout C: "He competes. He loves to play. That will take him a long way, but it will probably have to be in Europe or somewhere other than the NBA. But he will make more than six figures."

Scout A: "It's harder for guards to make it in the NBA. Coaches get comfortable with guards to know their systems. With guards, it just takes a lot longer."

The NBA/Euro stuff can wait.

If Kentucky players, fans and head coach John Calipari gather this afternoon to draft opposing stars they want dispatched to Mars, Devan Downey projects as a No. 1 overall pick.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.