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Great Wall above all

Baltimore Sun

In my annual salute to the NCAA tournament, here's the mock draft of draft-eligible collegians.

Not that it's a scoop in a year in which everyone has the same top five and in the age of the 24/7/365 draftnik, with the latest mock a mouse click away.

The others are weighted according to players' perceived intention. Thus Kentucky's John Wall is universally No. 1, but the Wildcats' other guard, Eric Bledsoe, a possible lottery pick whose intentions aren't as clear, is ranked No. 21 by ESPN's Chad Ford.

Meanwhile, scouts are flocking to the tournament to see Marshall's 7-foot freshman Hassan Whiteside, an unknown at the start of the season … as coach Donnie Jones locks down, bringing him off the bench in the hope of keeping him next season.

In other words, the situation is fluid, as usual:

1. John Wall, 6-4, 195, Fr., Kentucky: Last prospect rated as high was LeBron James.

2. Evan Turner, 6-7, 205, Jr., Ohio State: Compared to no less than Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy.

3. Derrick Favors, 6-10, 246, Fr., Georgia Tech: Didn't challenge Wall as expected but made big late move. Admirers see longer, more skilled Al Horford.

4. Wesley Johnson, 6-7, 195, Jr., Syracuse: Transfer from Iowa State who figured out the move from power forward to small forward during his year sitting out.

5. Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-9, 210, So., Wake Forest: High energy, athletic, raw, coming fast.

6. Hassan Whiteside, 7-0, 235, Fr., Marshall: Marcus Camby-style shot blocker with game. Question is why he was off radar in high school.

7. Cole Aldrich, 6-11, 250, Jr., Kansas: Admirers see Joel Przybilla with offense, but not everyone's a fan. Tourney showing will mean a lot.

8. DeMarcus Cousins, 6-11, 270, Fr., Kentucky: After troubled past, surprised everyone with production. Faded a tad and still deemed risky; another who needs a good tourney.

9. Greg Monroe, 6-11, 240, So., Georgetown: Great passer. Considered soft but finished strong. Says he'll stay in school.

10. Patrick Patterson, 6-9, 223, Jr., Kentucky: O.J. Mayo's high school teammate, beast inside, handled move to small forward.

11. Ed Davis, 6-9, 214, So., North Carolina: Athletic, but not as big or productive yet as Brandan Wright. Top five before breaking wrist.

12. Daniel Orton, 6-10, 250, Fr., Kentucky: Played little coming off knee surgery, but pros know all about him. Big, strong and athletic.

13. Eric Bledsoe, 6-1, 190, Fr., Kentucky: Compact, athletic, supposedly Kyle Lowry with a jumper.

14. Ekpe Udoh, 6-10, 240, Jr., Baylor: Transfer from Michigan, grew up while sitting out.

15. Xavier Henry, 6-6, 210, Fr., Kansas: Lefty who made 42 percent of 3s, was No. 2 scorer on Jayhawks.

16. Paul George, 6-7, 185, So., Fresno State: Dark horse rising.

17. James Anderson, 6-6, 195, Jr., Okla. State: Tough, all-around wing.

18. Mason Plumlee, 6-11, 240, Fr., Duke: Played little, but everyone knows he's something.

19. Solomon Alabi, 7-1, 251, So., Florida State: Further along than Hasheem Thabeet - but shorter, not as athletic. Still nice value this low.

20. Larry Sanders, 6-9, 205, Jr., Va. Commonwealth: Smaller Whiteside with no questions about his motor.

21. Trey Thompkins, 6-9, 247, So., Georgia.

22. Stanley Robinson, 6-9, 225, Sr., UConn.

23. Quincy Pondexter, 6-6, 215, Sr., Washington.

24. Damion James, 6-7, 225, Sr., Texas.

25. Avery Bradley, 6-3, 180, Fr., Texas.

26. Dexter Pittman, 6-10, 310, Sr., Texas.

27. Kyle Singler, 6-9, 210, Jr., Duke.

28. John Henson, 6-10, 200, So., North Carolina.

29. Jordan Hamilton, 6-7, 180, Fr., Texas.

30. Jimmer Fredette, 6-2, 195, Jr., BYU.

They said it: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, supporting Dwight Howard for a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award: "There's some really, really good perimeter defenders ... (but they can't) impact as many plays on the defensive end of the floor. … We're first in the league in defensive rebounding percentage. Why? Because of one guy, and that's a huge stat defensively."

•Suns GM Steve Kerr, who played on the hard-driving Bulls champions in the late '90s, on criticism of the Celtics' effort: "The reason we did it was because Michael (Jordan) was on a mission because we had lost (when he returned in 1995). He was a man possessed. He was (angry) at the world. He wanted to re-establish his dominance, so he just never let up. … I don't know why the Celtics would push themselves that hard. They have some guys who are older."

•The Rockets' Shane Battier, on Argentine native Luis Scola's 44-point game: "They're erecting statues in Buenos Aires as we speak."

•Celtics coach Doc Rivers, asked if he has a preference of whom to play in the playoffs: "Yeah, and they're not going to make it."

Mark Heisler covers the NBA for the Los Angeles Times.

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