For the second consecutive year, the Atlantic 10 has gone draftless, sending no players to the NBA via the league’s official draft. That isn’t to say A-10 grads haven’t found their way to the league through side doors. Just this past season undrafted VCU Ram, Troy Daniels, had a quiet draft night but worked his way from D-League grinder to NBA playoff hero in a breakout call-up for the Houston Rockets this past season.
Regardless, elite leagues are measured by success on the court as well as success after college, and we aren’t talking about Euroleague championships.
In order for the Atlantic 10 to continue its climb to power conference status, the league will need to hear their player’s names called among the 60 selections each draft night.
The last time that happened was in 2012 when Saint Bonaventure big, Andrew Nicholson, was selected with the 19th overall pick by the Orlando Magic. The previous season the league sent Richmond’s Justin Harper and Temple’s Lavoy Allen, both as second-round picks.
So far two VCU Rams have received the most attention in early 2015 mock drafts. Returning leading-scorer Treveon Graham is currently projected as a second-rounder by NBADraft.net while teammate, Briante Weber, is projected as a mid-second round pick by DraftExpress.com. Both will hope to avoid the fate of teammate Juvonte Reddic who saw his name in a similar position before falling off draft boards right before Thursday’s draft.
One thing that could boost the A-10’s chances in future drafts is the elite-level talent some teams have began to acquire out of high school.
VCU’s Graham and Weber represent the Rams’ first post-Final 4 recruiting class — neither of which were actually all that highly rated at the time — but a slew of Rams to follow that class have come in with a larger number of stars and the prized “top-100” tag next to their names out of high school.
Next season’s VCU roster will include five of those players: Terry Larrier (No.43), Mike Gilmore (No.77), Melvin Johnson (No.85), Jordan Burgess (No.96) and Justin Tillman (No.97), while their top returning talent will no doubt be the under-recruited Graham and Weber.
VCU isn’t the only school to boast an increased recruiting level. Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island Rams recently landed ESPN top-100 guard (No.79), Jared Terrell and scored four-star A-10 Rookie of the Year, EC Matthews, in the class before that. Hurley’s Rams are on the radar for a couple of 2015 top-100s and that number could improve as URI’s win total increases under the Hurley rebuild.
VCU looks to continue their success in what could be an all top-100 three-man 2015 class. They are currently being considered by nine of such players according to ESPN for that 2015 class.
NBA talent including early entry talent hasn’t been the M.O. of leagues such as the A-10, the type of league that builds its bid count on senior talent and team hoops over young sky-high potential, but some combination of a handful of those players, like Larrier and Terrell in combination with four-year guys, could be just what the A-10 needs to reach the next level both in March and on draft night for years to come.