The four local underclassmen who’ve dipped their toes into the NBA draft could have up to 60 days to decide whether to forgo their college eligibility and turn professional or return to school next season.
A trio of Gonzaga players, including junior Corey Kispert, redshirt sophomore Joel Ayayi, and sophomore Filip Petrusev, along with one Washington State player, sophomore CJ Elleby, have until Aug. 3, or until 10 days after the NBA draft combine – whichever date comes first – to make a decision about their future, according to an NCAA press release Thursday.
A date for the draft combine still hasn’t been set, but whether Kispert, Ayayi, Petrusev and Elleby are invited to the annual showcase, and subsequently how well they perform there, could be two key factors that inform their decision on turning pro or returning to school.
A total of 77 U.S. college and international players were invited to last year’s combine, held in Chicago. Among them was Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie, who returned to school for his senior year only to see the postseason shortened by COVID-19 which prompted the NCAA to cancel its annual basketball tournaments.
The NBA is planning to hold its annual draft lottery on Aug. 25 and the draft will take place on Oct. 15, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the withdrawal date for college underclassman was slated for Wednesday, but the NBA moved the date back when it indefinitely suspended operations in March, and prospects haven’t been able to visit teams for private workouts – instead limited to Zoom calls and phone conversations.
As of May 9, Elleby, an All-Pac-12 first-team candidate for the Cougars in 2019-20, had already spoken to the Memphis Grizzlies over Zoom and had 14 more calls lined up with NBA teams, according to a source.
In a conversation with media members two months ago, Elleby hinted that he wouldn’t fully enter the draft unless at least one team – but preferably multiple – guaranteed they would select him and offer him a full contract.
“I’m looking for a team that is basically telling me they’re going to pick me,” Elleby said. “I want a guaranteed contract. That’s pretty much it. It depends on the number of teams that are interested in me, so based on the (evaluation) I get back and word for the teams, it all depends on stuff like that.”
Gonzaga’s Kispert, a 6-foot-7 wing who was named to the All-West Coast Conference first team after starting all 33 games for the Bulldogs and averaging 13.9 points per game, explained last week in a Spokesman-Review Northwest Passages forum, “it can be really frustrating” being in limbo, “but it’s also a good thing for a lot of guys because they’re going to get the answers they need, whether that’s positive or negative feedback at the end of the day.”
By last Thursday, Kispert said he’d completed more than a dozen Zoom calls with NBA teams and estimated it was “close to 15 or 16 now.”
The Edmonds, Washington, native expressed optimism that he and other college prospects will have an opportunity to work out in front of NBA teams, saying “it all revolves around when the NBA starts their season,” and “it’s going to be pretty far down the line I think, but if things go the way they are and states continue to slowly open up, there’s a good chance that later in the summer if you’re still in (the draft) you could go work out for a team.”
Kispert said NBA teams have largely been consistent in the feedback they’ve given the GU wing.
“There hasn’t been super, super high highs and low lows to kind of sift out,” Kispert said. “… Obviously teams, especially in today’s NBA, love my shooting, they love the way I can space the floor and shoot it quick and accurately. Then they also really like my size.
“… As far as stuff to work on, just being able to really hone in and lock in on defense. Guarding the best players, most athletic people in the wold, stuff like that is what I need to work on.”
In an NBA mock draft filed Wednesday by Sports Illustrated, GU’s Tillie is projected to go in the second round to the Golden State Warriors, but none of the aforementioned four underclassmen – Kispert, Ayayi, Petrusev or Elleby – is expected to be taken.
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