Wesley Saunders is looking to make history on Thursday night. If Saunders hears his name called during the NBA Draft, he will become the first Ivy League player to be drafted in 20 years (Jerome Allen, 1995), and the first Harvard player ever to be drafted. If Saunders finds his way to the NBA through the draft or a different route, he will be only the eleventh player in the Ivy League’s storied, 60-year history to reach the Association. Yes, Wesley Saunders could be in rarefied air.
Saunders torched Ivy and high-major defenses alike in his illustrious four years with the Crimson, and he has certainly gotten the attention of NBA scouts, who reserved themselves seats at most of the Crimson’s home games this past season. Wesley Saunders may be a once-in-a-decade Ivy League player, but how does he compare to the top college prospects in the land who are also vying for NBA contracts? Here are a few possible scenarios to get you set for the draft…
Wesley Saunders is currently ranked 68th in this year’s draft class by ESPN’s Chad Ford, which classifies him as a “late second-round to undrafted” caliber prospect. To put this in perspective, Jeremy Lin was ranked as the 89th best prospect in the draft in 2010 (and went undrafted). However, Saunders has worked out for a total of eight NBA teams, and he has gained palpable national attention in recent months. From eviscerating UNC with a heroic performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to his recent impressive play at official workouts, Wesley Saunders is certainly a legitimate draft prospect.
Over the last five years, 15 prospects who were ranked between 60 and 70 by ESPN have been drafted. Based upon those metrics, Saunders has about a 30 percent chance to get drafted. Regardless, however, one thing is for sure: Saunders will get an opportunity to prove himself. Saunders is a lock to play in the NBA Summer League (Harvard’s Kyle Casey, who was not considered a draft prospect, played in the Summer League last year), and NBA scouts will definitely give Saunders a long look. From there, “he should find numerous professional opportunities” as DraftExpress puts it, whether in the NBA, the NBA D-League, or overseas. Saunders may have to wait a year or two to make his NBA debut, but there is no doubt that he will get his chance if he is good enough.
If Saunders eventually makes it to the NBA, or another professional league, he will bring his versatility, high basketball IQ, and “the ability to make plays for others,” as Saunders put in an interview for Hoops Rumors earlier this month. Also, while Saunders’ jump shot is already excellent, improvement in this area is imperative to his success: “I definitely want to work on my shooting consistency from three-point range,” Saunders recently told Hoops Rumors. “I shot about 42 percent from outside this year, but that’s the college three. The NBA three is a whole different animal.” Saunders projects to be a very valuable role player in the NBA if he can make it there, but if his stellar play at Harvard is any indication, he could also have the makings of a star.