NBA Draft: Is Deng this year's Carmelo?

The freshmen are coming! The freshmen are coming!

That's the alarm being sounded among NBA scouts as they begin scouting for the 2004 NBA draft. For years the freshman class has been one of the more undermined resources in college basketball.

Every year between one to three college freshmen bolt and come to the NBA with extremely mixed success. With the influx of high school players coming straight to the NBA, scouts say that most of the guys who really don't want to play in college don't anymore.

"I think the reason that you don't see a lot of college freshman declaring is that they actually want the college experience," one scout said. "Most of the kids who could be first-rounders could've been first rounders after their senior year as high school as well. They made the choice to get an education and work on their game at this level. That's why very few of them leave after just one year."

The kids who do leave usually fall into one of three categories. They either wanted to declare after their senior season of high school but weren't projected to go high enough in the draft (like Dajuan Wagner, Zach Randolph, DerMarr Johnson), had trouble remaining eligible for play (like Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom), or they're kids who wanted to go to school but an unbelievable freshman season or tournament performance put them so high in the lottery that they would've been crazy not to make the jump (see Carmelo Anthony, Corey Maggette, Rodney White, Eddie Griffin).

A look at the group of freshmen above will reveal that most of them struggled for years before achieving NBA success and some of them (Johnson, White, Griffin) have watched their careers fizzle away.

But the success of Anthony and Chris Bosh will likely change that for this year's group. Both players are having a major impact on their teams, and with a weak sophomore class, scouts are studying this year's freshman class very closely.

With that said, there has never been more than three freshmen taken in the first round of an NBA draft. A survey of scouts identified only five players who they felt had a chance to be ready for the NBA after this season. The rest were NBA prospects down the road.

Here's a quick look at five freshmen whom scouts are watching this season.