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Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh.

First Thoughts: Vonleh elects for NBA draft

WHAT IT MEANS: Indiana center Noah Vonleh will leave school early and declare for this summer's NBA draft, he told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. Indications had been that this would be Vonleh's only season as a Hoosier. Now, Vonleh possibly could follow in the footsteps of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo as a top-five pick in the draft.

RIGHT CALL? The kid is just 18 years old, and very few players succeed in the NBA as teenagers. Vonleh's upside, though, makes him a lottery pick, and he's ready to cash in on all his hard work and begin the next phase of his life. Players drafted outside the top 10 lose millions of dollars on their first contract. It's hard to argue with Vonleh's decision in terms of finances and draft position.

PROJECTION: The freshman stats of Vonleh – 11.3 points and nine rebounds a game – are not an indication of what he will do right away at the next level. But they are pretty impressive when you consider his youth and the league he played in.

Vonleh probably will fare very well in the pros. He rebounds at a very high level and has shown skill in other areas. Big men like that don't often fail.

POSITION CHANGE: Vonleh lacks the muscle to guard brawny interior players in the NBA, so he will play his more natural power forward position.

STROKE IT: Scouts love the potential Vonleh showed as a 3-point shooter. Vonleh made 48.5 percent of his 3s while taking nearly two a game, and that helped make him one of the Big Ten's most underrated players.

Vonleh shot 52.3 percent overall and drew fouls. Vonleh's 4.5 free throw attempts per game helped because he makes his free throws. As a result of all that, Vonleh's true shooting percentage was a rather impressive 60.4.

CEILING: Some view Vonleh as a post scorer in the mold of Al Jefferson in the best case, but I have him more like a Chris Bosh. Vonleh is lanky and can shoot, drive and finish. He can be a big-time scorer and defender as a mobile big man. That's Bosh.

WHO IS GOING TO PLAY CENTER? In Bloomington, that's the question of the hour. One idea is to go after Anthony Lee. On their current roster, the Hoosiers have no way to make up for the loss of Vonleh's size and skill.

Lee is a center transferring from Temple who sounds intent on enrolling at a school in the Midwest. He wasn't entirely comfortable playing in the middle, though, and may want to find a roster that offers minutes at the 4.

Luke Fischer would have been the Hoosiers' plan, but he bolted for Marquette. At the moment, Hanner Mosquera-Perea would be the Hoosiers' starting center. That's a scary thought.

LEGACY: Indiana isn't accustomed to one-and-done players, and he played on a thoroughly mediocre roster, so it's not clear how Vonleh will be remembered. He was the Big Ten freshman of the year. That's something tangible.

He's also one of the great talents to ever don the candy-striped pants. Without Vonleh, a 17-15 season becomes an irrevocable horror show, perhaps as bad as 12-20.

Vonleh might have summed his own legacy when he told Parrish, “It's going to suck leaving college without an NCAA Tournament, but I have to do what's best for me.

His work at Assembly Hall was incomplete, but Vonleh's stock skyrocketed as he anchored Indiana's defense and grabbed every board in sight.

The NBA will benefit from Vonleh's dedication. Know this: he comes with no character questions.

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