Julian Wright was the third-leading scorer on Kansas University's men's basketball team following his sophomore season.
So was J.R. Giddens.
Wright's inherent athleticism and jumping ability allow him to make highlight-reel dunks.
Giddens also can jam with the best of them.
Wright's primary weakness is the inability to manufacture short-range jump shots off the dribble. Uh huh, that's one of the biggest holes in Giddens' game, too.
On the surface, Wright and Giddens are similar packages. At 6-foot-8, Wright is three inches taller, but otherwise he and Giddens possess pretty much the same physical attributes. Yet Wright is expected to be a lottery selection in Thursday's NBA Draft, while Giddens is long past the stage when NBA scouts and press box wags labeled him a pro prospect.
Giddens has one more year of college eligibility remaining at New Mexico U., and his stock has plunged to the point where he is listed as a possible second-round pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
With Wright headed for the penthouse, the knee-jerk reaction is to assume Giddens' pro status slipped because of his numerous trips to the doghouse.
You know all about the stabbing incident at a Lawrence watering hole in May of 2005 that precipitated his eventual transfer to New Mexico. And you may know he was suspended for a few games last season - reasons undisclosed - but supposedly, in part, for hogging the ball. On another front, Giddens currently is working to upgrade his academics.
Without question, Wright has been a better citizen, a better team player and a better student than Giddens - all factors in determining how high he will go in the draft - but Wright is a much better all-around basketball player, as well.
Wright can pass the ball. Giddens can't, or won't. In fact, some scouts think Wright passes too much. On the flip side, Giddens has a reputation for shooting first and, well, shooting second, too.
Wright can rebound - 7.8 boards a game during his soph season - and Giddens can't, or won't. Giddens averaged 3.8 rebounds a game during his last year at Kansas.
Wright did not exactly parade to the free-throw line, making about 3.1 trips per game, but Giddens went to the foul stripe perhaps fewer times than any KU starter in history. In 30 games during his sophomore season, Giddens shot only 25 charities.
Wright can play defense. His 55 steals and 49 blocked shots last season were gold stars on the scouts' charts. Giddens' corresponding numbers were about half that, yet it wasn't that Giddens didn't try to play defense. All good defenders have quick feet, and Giddens doesn't.
Nevertheless, Giddens can outperform Wright in a couple of areas. Although streaky, Giddens can nail the three-pointer. Wright can't. He attempted only 13 treys, making three, all last season. Giddens also protects the ball much better than Wright, who led the Jayhawks in turnovers last winter.
But Wright is two years younger than Giddens and thus still in the prime of his potential, at least in the eyes of the pros.
So what if Wright can't manufacture a jump shot, can't make three-pointers and can't protect the basketball? He'll still wake up Friday morning a millionaire.