It has been quite the past two months for Jairus Lyles.
From leading UMBC as the first No. 16 seed to topple a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, to competing in pre-NBA draft workouts; Lyles’ journey did not end.
Last week, the 6-2 guard showcased his skills for the local team, the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was one of six players to make the first pre-draft workout for the Wizards, among which included potential draft pick Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky.
“Just coming from a mid-major, the process is going to be different from if I came from a high-major, because I didn’t get invited to the combine,” Lyles said. “I’ve just been working out ever since and finishing school.”
All he needed was a couple days after his team’s historic moment to get back in the gym. As the leading scorer throughout the entire season for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, he totaled 28 points and 9-for-11 shooting in the largest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Since April 22, his workouts have been in Florida, training at IMG Academy.
But for the rest of UMBC and many in the surrounding area, they are still basking the history made by the small, suburban research university.
“I wouldn’t say it’s that much different. Just a lot of interviews, a lot of more fan love on the campus, just around the city of Baltimore and even all over the DMV. Just a lot of love. Just to see the impact we had on the city and the whole DMV, it’s incredible.”
“It’s gotten back to normal now. I’d say it was… about two weeks after, I mean you still got recognized on the street and on campus they’re like, ‘Oh, congratulations’ but as far as all of the media attention it died down to all of local interviews and stuff like that,” Lyles said.
Without Lyles getting to the NBA Combine, it is not anticipated he will be taken in this year’s draft. That does not mean a team in the off-season will not pick him up.
While a small guard by NBA standards, the 22-year-old soared to national interest with the stunning upset. Lyles made the most of it too. Just to get into the tournament he hit a 23-foot buzzer-beating heave for the Retrievers to knock off Vermont in the America East Championship. In that contest he scored 27 points, including five three-pointers. That was followed up with the aforementioned 28 points against Virginia and 12 against Kansas State.
“As far as setting myself up, it was definitely good, just to get the opportunity playing on the big stage, to step up and show everybody what you are capable of, but that is just a starting point, nothing is promised. So I gotta keep working hard every day to continue that, to reach my goals,” Lyles said.
Here is what NBA Scouting Live said about Lyles in his draft profile:
Good shooter from all over the floor
Excels at attacking the basket
Adequate rebounder for a player his size
Adequate defensive player
Not a true point guard, but is undersized to play the two
May be a bit undersized to play the point
Relative unknown commodity
He is a talented player that could perhaps potentially make an NBA roster someday.
Being picked up by the Wizards would be the perfect hometown story if Washington chooses to bring him on. Playing at DeMatha Catholic High School, he first went to VCU before transferring to UMBC. With the Stags he played with current NBA Star Victor Oladipo and helped lead them to the WCAC title game in 2012.
However, it is often the trend of fellow mid-major stars to take their skills overseas, which may be the end result for Lyles. He also had a workout with the Toronto Raptors this past week.
The longer he stays in the DMV though, after all the Wizards will have a G-league team starting this year, the more his legend will grow, something that Lyles is up in the air about.
“Its hard to tell right now, given the time that this happened, but I think later down the line we can look back on this and say that was a great moment for UMBC, and the NCAA history of basketball, period. I probably appreciate it a little more when I’m older. It’s kind of still sinking in right now as far as what we did in the tournament,” Lyles said.
“I actually haven’t watched [the upset over Virginia] yet. I don’t know when I will, but when I do it will be a special moment.”
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