Ebanks' decision will impact WVU
INDIANAPOLIS - After playing in their first Final Four since 1959, the West Virginia Mountaineers' chances for more success next season may depend on Devin Ebanks' big decision.
The Mountaineers will lose three seniors from this season's team: star forward Da'Sean Butler, starting forward Wellington Smith and reserve Cam Payne. And it's possible Ebanks, a sophomore forward, could leave early to pursue a pro career. NBADraft.net ranks Ebanks as the 16th-best pro prospect, and DraftExpress.com puts him 28th.
"Right now," Ebanks said in a teary-eyed locker room after a 78-57 loss to Duke in Saturday's national semifinals, "I don't really want to talk about that."
But given the serious knee injury suffered by Butler on Saturday - and the damage it could do to his NBA prospects - Ebanks may decide to bolt.
WVU's Kevin Jones, another sophomore forward, is expected to return to school but may consider the NBA as well. DraftExpress.com projects Jones as a second round selection in 2011.
"I really haven't thought about that," Jones said when asked about turning pro. "I've just focused on this season throughout the whole year. There's a time and place for [a decision], but it really hasn't gone through my mind."
If Ebanks and Jones return, they figure to join seniors John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman in the frontcourt. The backcourt will be bolstered by the return of starting point guard Truck Bryant if he can fully recover from a foot injury suffered during the NCAA Tournament, and reserve Joe Mazzulla, who took over for Bryant. Senior guards Casey Mitchell and Jonnie West will add depth.
The Mountaineers will also expect more production out of this season's freshman class consisting of forwards Deniz Kilicli and Dan Jennings and guard Dalton Pepper. Kilicli played seven minutes and scored four points against the Blue Devils.
"All of us who are staying are going to go right back to the gym and work out," Kilicli said. "We are going to win this next year. We'll make sure we aren't going to feel like this again."
The Mountaineers will also see help from incoming freshmen point guard Noah Cottrill and center David Nyarsuk.
"I think the state of West Virginia is proud of us - it was our first Final Four in 51 years," Jones said. "This is a special team. I'm just going to remember it and look forward to next year."