Four Cats have decision to make about NBA draft

2014-04-06T00:00:00Z Four Cats have decision to make about NBA draftBy Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

College basketball players considering an early NBA departure don’t get much time to breathe after a deep NCAA tournament run anymore, thanks to tighter decision-making deadlines.

But the potentially departing Arizona Wildcats players are trying to, anyway. After four straight weeks of playing away from home, they enjoyed a return to normal last week.

One of Kaleb Tarczewski’s mentors, John Carroll, said the sophomore center “has fixed his attention on academics.” Aaron Gordon’s mom said her son is also focused on being a student again, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s mother said last week that her son hadn’t even mentioned possibly leaving for the NBA draft.

That could all change soon for any of them. UA is expected to lose both Gordon and guard Nick Johnson to the NBA draft, while Hollis-Jefferson and Tarczewski are considering a move.

Anyone seeking official NBA input on their draft status must request it by Wednesday, and will receive it on April 14. Players then must decide whether or not to enter the draft by April 27 as long as they keep their consideration process private. Those who formally apply for the draft must withdraw by April 15 in order to retain collegiate eligibility under NCAA rules.

Johnson made a head start toward that process by meeting last week with UA coach Sean Miller, who says he will help players get the information they need before making a decision.

“I’m talking to my family … I’m talking with (Miller) and have sat with him a few times throughout the week, talking about the pros and cons, getting feedback from the next level on my game,” Johnson told Phoenix’s 910-AM radio on Friday. “I been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. I’m just taking my time, not letting my emotions from losing to Wisconsin affect my decision.”

It may help that the UA players considering a jump also have people in their circles experienced in pro sports. Johnson’s father, Joey, played pro basketball in places such as the Philippines, Sweden and Hong Kong, while Gordon’s father, Ed, once played for a Clippers summer-league team — and was invited to camp for the San Diego Chargers.

Hollis-Jefferson’s older brother, Rahlir, is playing professionally in Luxembourg, while Carroll is a former Boston Celtics coach who has been telling Tarczewski to take his time.

“That decision will run its course,” Carroll said. “You never want to make a decision when you’re tired and run down.”

Rylanda Hollis said her son may be speaking to some people in his family about the NBA, but not her at this point, while Shelly Davis, Gordon’s mother, said his family intends to go through the full evaluation process.

Just not right away.

“Right now we’re not really doing much,” Davis said. “We won’t know more for the next couple of weeks.”

Here’s one look at how the four players’ prospects stack up as of now:

Aaron Gordon

Age: 18

Size: 6-8, 201

Pro position: Combo forward

2013-14 stats: 12.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 49.5 FG%, 42.2 FT%

Skills: Athleticism, defense, all-out intensity

Holes: Shooting

Draft Express projection: No. 8 in 2014 mock draft, No. 8 overall prospect, No. 6 freshman

ESPN projection: No. 6 prospect overall

Why stay: To get further along toward a college degree, work on jumper and perimeter skills.

Why go: A No. 8 pick will get about $5 million in guaranteed salary for the next two seasons, but a major injury could take that money away next year. Draft stock could fall if skills don’t improve as a sophomore.

Quotable: “His shooting has proven to be a real weakness, particularly from the line, however his vision and passing have been a pleasant surprise. While some envision a future star at the next level, look for Gordon to ultimately become an excellent defensive oriented, energy role player as a combo forward.” — HoopsHype.com

Nick Johnson

Age: 21

Size: 6-2, 195

Pro position: Combo guard

2013-14 stats: 16.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, 36.7 3FG%, 78.1 FT%

Skills: Athleticism, defense, long-range shooting, personality

Holes: Undersized for shooting guard position

Draft Express projection: No. 48 in 2014 mock draft, No. 60 prospect overall, No. 6 junior

ESPN projection: No. 57 prospect overall

Why stay: Could graduate, contend for national Player of the Year and a Final Four, improve shooting and playmaking.

Why go: After being Pac-12 Player of the Year and an All-American, Johnson’s draft stock may not rise in 2015, and his stock for this year’s draft could go up after athleticism is showcased at NBA combine

Quotable: “I think he’s just a little bit small for a two guard, so we’ve always had him second round, whether it’s higher or lower. Once you talk about the second round, then there’s no guarantee of getting drafted because a lot of teams drafting second round are taking guys who are going to Europe (first). It comes down to their workouts and who’s staying in the draft.” — Jonathan Givony, president, Draft Express

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Age: 19

Size: 6-6, 210

Pro position: Small forward

2013-14 stats: 9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 49.0 FG%, 68.2 FT%

Skills: Athleticism, defense, aggressiveness, ballhandling

Holes: Long-range shooting

Draft Express projection: No. 14 in 2015 mock draft, No. 25 prospect overall, No. 12 freshman

ESPN projection: No. 24 prospect overall

Why stay: Could get taken late in first round this year, but draft stock could rise into lottery range as sophomore, meaning $2 million or more difference in salary over first two years.

Why go: Draft stock already rose late this season, and he may not get much bigger offensive role as a sophomore.

Quotable: “I think he’s a really good prospect other than the fact that he can’t shoot. If he could shoot, he’d be a top 10 pick.” – Givony

Kaleb Tarczewski

Age: 21

Size: 7-0, 240

Pro position: Center

2013-14 stats: 9.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 58.4 FG%, 75.6 FT%

Skills: Athleticism for size, finishing around rim, free-throw shooting

Holes: Limited offensive skills, not a shot-blocker

Draft Express projection: No. 27 in 2015 mock draft, No. 64 prospect overall

ESPN projection: No. 70 overall

Why stay: More refined offensive game and better rebounding could push him well into 2015 first round; is interested in getting closer to degree.

Why go: At age 21, upside may be limited. Role not likely to change much next season.

Quotable: “Tarczewski has the size and defensive chops to be an NBA center, but another year at Arizona to polish his offense should catapult him from a second-rounder into the first round.” — ESPN.com (Chad Ford)

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