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Five undrafted stars who should have played college basketball in 2021-22

There were 60 names called during the two rounds of last week’s 2021 NBA draft. There was excitement galore for the 30 first-round selections who know the money will be very good and they will have a degree of security.

Those chosen in the second round know that there have been numerous success stories in that round. Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets was a second-round choice and became the league MVP this past season. Khris Middleton of the world champion Milwaukee Bucks went in round two.

Unfortunately, in this deep draft, there were many college stars that were left in the cold. They could become basketball vagabonds, scratching and clawing to get a shot to make a roster. Odds are, they will start with a minimum salary.

When they entered the draft, they had delusions of grandeur. Their family and friends may have boosted their belief in their value to a team.

I looked over the list of underclassmen that did not hear NBA commissioner Adam Silver or deputy commissioner Mark Tatum call their name out at Barclays Center. These guys are on my should-have-stayed-in-school team:

Justin Champagnie, Pittsburgh: Champagnie was the ACC’s second-leading scorer at 18 points per game, while leading the league in rebounding at 11.1 per contest. Champagnie will get a shot in the NBA after signing a free agent two-way contract with Toronto following the draft. That means he could end up in the G League if he doesn’t make the Raptors roster. His brother, Julian, opted to return to St. John’s.

D.J. Carton, Marquette: He started his career at Ohio. State before transferring to Marquette, where he averaged 13 PPG last season. Carton signed a deal with the Charlotte Hornets, where he will have an opportunity to attend training camp and possibly earn a two-way contract. No security at the moment but at least he will have a shot to show his ability and impress people.

Aaron Henry, Michigan State: Henry averaged 15.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG, shooting 45 percent from the floor for the Spartans. He entered the NBA Draft in 2020 but pulled out and returned to East Lansing and Tom Izzo. He agreed to a two-way deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, so he could end up in the G League.

Matthew Hurt, Duke: Hurt’s sophomore season saw impressive numbers (18.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 44.4% on 3-pointers) that were much stronger than his freshman campaign, and many felt he would be drafted. Hurt made the all-ACC first team but Duke had a disappointing season, missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Hurt signed a two-way deal with the Houston Rockets, a team which won 17 games last season. His ability to step back and shoot the trifecta will give him a legit shot to make the Rockets roster.

Mac McClung, Texas Tech: He started his career at Georgetown, then went to Texas Tech before trying the transfer portal and opting to stay in the draft. McClung averaged 15.5 PPG for the Red Raiders last season. He signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, who also signed Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves, Joel Ayayi of Gonzaga and Michigan’s Chaundee Brown.

I decided not to pick any true seniors who had extra eligibility thanks to the NCAA’s decision to award every player in college basketball an extra year of eligibility due to the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a pretty talented group of five college players, double-figure scorers that will have to work hard to make it at the next level. Keep an eye on these five as they try to surprise the experts that passed on them at the draft.

The 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala, benefiting the V Foundation, will be held May 6, 2022, at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. For more information visit dickvitaleonline.com.

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