SACRAMENTO -- One foot in, one foot out. It’s the new NBA draft process, and the players seem to love it.
According to new NCAA rules, undergraduate college players can hire agents and work out for NBA teams without it impacting their eligibility. The agents can pay for their travel and food for NBA workouts, and they can collect feedback from clubs before deciding whether to stay in the draft or return to school.
“It allows people like me to the opportunity to test and still have a chance to get their education if they want to go back if it’s not their time," University of Florida freshman guard Andrew Nembhard said from the Kings facility Wednesday. "It’s been great.”
Players have until May 29th to make their final decision, which can get dicey for college programs waiting to hear whether they’ll have open roster spots or not.
There is hope thatm by allowing players the opportunity to test the NBA market, potential prospects can get a better feel for their strengths and what they need to focus on moving forward before making an educated decision on their future.
“I’m very thankful, grateful for the opportunity,” Virginia big man Mamadi Diakite said. “If you look back at the time people didn’t get to do this, if you were trying to test the water, you were done, basically.
“You had no way back to college,” Diakite added. “But now we get an opportunity to come and play in a great facility like this, with Hall of Famers and go back to school with that experience, you know how much you have to work and you know your weaknesses and everything. It’s a really good process.”
With fewer and fewer players fully participating in the NBA Draft Combine, this opens the door for teams to bring in more players for individual and group workouts. Many of the players who have visited the Kings this week already have plans to go back to school and re-enter the draft next year or possibly the year after that.
“With a lot of the new rules, it was a little easier decision to make,” William and Mary center Nathan Knight said. “Just the ability to test the waters and not risk my eligibility, because school is important as well.”
These players will return to school with professional assessments from multiple clubs. It’s an experience that might even raise the level of competition at the NCAA level.
“All of these GMs, all of these coaches are wise people when it comes to the game of basketball,” Knight added. “It’s a lot to take in, so I’m just doing my best to take it all in and really just put together a really robust template of what I need to work on, where they think I could go this year and what they think I can do if I went back next year.”
The process of group workouts also allows prospects to test themselves against different competition. Twelve different schools from all over the map were represented during Wednesday’s workout in Sacramento.
“I’ve been able to get great feedback on my game and just learn from great coaches and great players and get to play against the best competition in the country,” Penn State junior forward Lamar Stevens said. “This has been great for me, just being able to go through this process the way it’s been set up.”
Sacramento will host a fourth workout this week on Thursday when UCF’s 7-foot-7 center Tacko Fall headlines another six NBA hopefuls. This is the new standard for prospect evaluation.
The Kings will make a file on every prospect who rolls through Sacramento, whether it’s for one of their three second-round selections this year, or for next summer when the process starts all over again.