John Shurna could be an NBA first-round selection ... in 2012

Thumbnail image for John Shurna drives along the baseline.

Update 4:30pm: Multiple sources (here's one) are now reporting that Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III will actually be returning to the school for his senior season.

Unlike Minnesota's Ralph Sampson and Notre Dame's Carleton Scott, Northwestern's John Shurna made the obvious choice Sunday to withdraw his name from the NBA draft on the new deadline for underclassmen withdrawal.

"This was a great opportunity for me to receive feedback on the areas of my game
that I need to improve upon," Shurna said in a Northwestern release. "In the end, it's in my best interest to
return to Northwestern for my senior year. I'm excited to continue playing with my
teammates and work with our coaching staff as we strive to achieve our goals."

Shurna, NU's leading scorer for the 2010-2011 campaign, would have been a late second round choice if drafted at all. He didn't make any mock draft appearances.

In deciding to return to Northwestern for his senior season, Shurna greatly improves his draft chances for next year if he can do just a couple of things.

Shurna should be hitting the gym hard this offseason. His critics have often cited his lack of strength as a weakness in defending the post. Added strength and size will improve his post presence on both ends (that 3.5 percent OR% needs work) and make Northwestern a more comprehensive threat in the Big Ten.

Shurna is on pace to break Billy McKinney's all-time Northwestern career scoring record of 1,900 points set back in 1976. And even with senior NU captain Michael Thompson gone, 6-8 Shurna makes up a Cats team that will be returning all the rest of their starters and
will certainly compete for an NCAA appearance - even a third straight 20-win season followed by a third-straight NIT appearance would be a big boon for Shurna's resume.

That kind of press is exactly what Shurna needs to move up the draft boards, but that also means staying healthy for every game that the Cats play. No concussions and no ankle issues this year - if only that was a controllable variable.

If drafted in 2012 Shurna would be the first Northwestern alum since Evan Eschmeyer was selected by the New Jersey Nets in 1999 in the second round (34th overall).

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Tags: John Shurna, Northwestern

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