Arguably the nation's top prospect will indeed be attending the University of Connecticut this fall, despite taking an initial interest in a 5th year at prep school and avoiding college entirely. Andre Drummond's decision to play collegiately was a surprise announcement, after his camp became skeptical of the effects it might have on his already established draft stock. The idea that playing against bigger, older and more talented competition could expose a weakness and therefore harm his perceived image as potential number one pick became a worrisome possibility.
However because of Drummond's mesmerizing physical attributes and surprisingly advanced offensive repertoire, his situation should be looked at in a different light. Few standout athletes combine the size, skill-set and mobility of Drummond, and while most highly ranked 18-year old big men lack polish or suffer physically, he excels in both departments. Even if he fails to produce on a consistent basis, his upside is too enticing to allow some shaky "freshman play" diminish his value as an NBA prospect.
Returning to high school just wouldn't have done any good from a development standpoint. Watching Drummond in high school was like watching a grown man bowl with bumpers or ride a bike with training wheels. There aren't enough physically mature defenders at the high school level to challenge the 6'10 and growing power forward.
You don't prepare for the SATS reviewing vocabulary you already know. You look for new words to conquer, and hire a tutor with a track record of Jim Calhoun's. A year at Connecticut will allow Drummond to grow under one of the game's brightest basketball minds at a critical stage in one's developmental timeline.
The possibility of a change in the NBA's eligibility rule could also have factored into Drummond's decision. What if he returned to prep school, only to find out midseason that he'll need to attend three years of college before entering the draft anyway? That 5th year in high school would turn out to be a bigger waste of time than a prolonged session of "Angry Birds".
The addition of Drummond to college basketball also changes the power landscape of the NCAA. His presence makes Connecticut a legit candidate to repeat as national champions, where he'll join Alex Oriakhi on the interior and play alongside rising star Jeremy Lamb on the perimeter.
While Oriakhi struggles at creating his own offense in the post, Drummond is proficient scoring within 15 feet thanks to his quickness, athleticism, power and genuine talent. He'll add a new dimension to the Huskies' offense, and one that few teams in the country can offer.
While Lamb and Drummond will play featured roles, UConn's success will be highly dependent on the consistency of their young core of role players. Guard Shabazz Napier will need to take the next step as a sophomore, where he'll be asked to handle point guard duties on a full-time basis. He got to learn how to lead a team from gutsy Kemba Walker, and now it's his show.
With Drummond expected to draw double teams and Lamb a focus of opposing defenses, Napier should receive plenty of opportunities in spot-up shooting situations. Improving on last year's 32% from downtown should allow Drummond more space to operate on the block as the season progresses.
Drummond should also change Connecticut's defensive identity. His presence will allow Oriakhi and sophomore Roscoe Smith more flexibility guarding opposing front lines, and force penetrating guards to think twice before attacking the rim. Those three, along with Lamb and freshman DeAndre Daniels give Connecticut the length to prevent opposing offenses from operating comfortably in the half court.
Andre Drummond adds some star power to a sport that sees its top players use college like a one night stand. And while the Big East has remained one of the most competitive conferences in the country, they haven't produced any NBA stars since Rudy Gay in 2006. Andre's decision is good for college hoops, it's good for the fans and it's good for Connecticut.
And after a year of abusing the Big East, it will be good for Andre as well.