After the 2009 college basketball season, there were a lot of talented underclassmen that left school early to enter the NBA Draft. Guys like Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Johnny Flynn, and James Harden all would have been among the best players in the college game if they had returned to school. However, even with their defections to the NBA, there are plenty of exciting NCAA players to watch in 2009.
Perhaps the best big man return to school is Cole Aldrich out of Kansas. He had a breakout season as a sophomore, being one of the key cogs for a surprise Kansas team. He averaged a double-double over the course of the year, and really showed refined skills in the post. He could have been a lottery pick this year, and will look to dominate the Big 12, possibly challenging for the Wooden Award. Greg Monroe is another exciting big man to watch, as his versatile game could lead to him being a top 3 pick in next June's NBA Draft.
There are many great forwards returning to the college game. Best among them might be Luke Harangody out of Notre Dame. He put up 23 points and 12 rebounds per game as a junior, and showed a more versatile skill set scoring the basketball than he had in his early Notre Dame days. He will look to help lead the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season.
Kyle Singler returns for Duke, and he is one of the most athletic and complete players in the college game. He can play either on the perimeter or on the block, and should be a huge asset for the Blue Devils after losing Gerald Henderson to the draft. Then there is Damion James, another versatile wing, who plays for Texas. He is a 3/4 tweener... big enough to bang down low, but quick enough to play on the perimeter. He will look to parlay a solid senior season in a first round draft pick.
Sherron Collins might be the most exciting guard returning in 2009. He can score in bunches for Kansas, from anywhere on the court. He is very quick off the dribble, and has lots of range. He showed a penchant for hitting big shots, and will be the leader of the national title favorites. Willie Warren from Oklahoma is another exciting player returning, as he will look to lead Oklahoma back near the top of the Big 12 even with the loss of Blake Griffin, the best player in college basketball last season.
So while there was a lot of exciting talent that left for the NBA after last season, there are still plenty of exciting NCAA players coming back in 2009 that will be a lot of fun to watch.