Luka Garza

And-Ones: Draft, Robinson, NBA Foundation, Bubbles

There was some surprise around the NBA that so many college early entrants decided to withdraw from the 2020 draft before Monday’s deadline, according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com. As Woo observes, the 2021 draft class is widely viewed as stronger than 2020’s, and the ’20/21 college season remains somewhat in flux, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Woo acknowledges that the stability of returning to a college program was likely appealing for many of those prospects who withdrew, especially since we also don’t yet know what the NBA and G League schedules will look like for ’20/21.

Elsewhere on the draft front, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) has updated his 2021 mock draft to account for recent early entrant decisions. Prospects such as Corey Kispert (Gonzaga), Isaiah Joe (Arkansas), Trendon Watford (LSU), and Luka Garza (Iowa), who recently pulled out of the 2020 draft pool, now show up in the second round of Givony’s mock for next year.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson has parted ways with Khimki Moscow, his team in Russia, as Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays. Robinson appeared in 313 games for six NBA teams after being drafted in 2012, but hasn’t been on an NBA roster since being cut by Atlanta before the 2018/19 season.
  • The NBA announced today that its Board of Governors – in partnership with the NBPA – will contribute $300MM over the next 10 years to a new, league-wide charitable foundation called the NBA Foundation, which is “dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.”
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic takes an interesting look at what the “bubble” sports leagues are getting right and what lessons can be learned from the experiments, which have been a success so far.

Draft Notes: Garza, Mike, Thompson, Ross, Crutcher

Iowa star Luka Garza has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and is set to return with the Hawkeyes for his senior season, he announced on social media Sunday.

Garza is an early frontrunner for National Player of the Year, with the 21-year-old center hoping that his team can compete for a championship next season. He averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this season, leading the Hawkeyes to a 20-11 record.

“My heart is in Iowa City,” Garza said in a statement. “I love this place too much to leave it. I love my teammates, coaches, community, fans and university. I don’t care how many games we were able to play, I want to be here and wear IOWA across my chest one more time. It would have been too hard to close the book without the last chapter. I have decided to return to the University of Iowa for my senior season.”

Here are some other draft-related notes tonight:

  • SMU junior Isiaha Mike has signed with Chemnitz in the German BBL, agent Adam Papas told Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Mike will decide on October 6 whether to stay in the 2020 NBA Draft, Goodman notes. “Isiaha has a child that he was ready to provide for,” Papas said. “He feels like a year of pro development gets him closer to a NBA roster next season either via a draft and stash this season or being in next year’s draft. There’s too much uncertainty with the G League/2-ways.”
  • Oregon State swingman Ethan Thompson has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and is set to return to school, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. Thompson averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season.
  • Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross is withdrawing from the draft, he told Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Ross held per-game averages of 20.5 points and 7.2 assists last season, shooting 40 percent from the field and 35% from deep.
  • Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher will return for his senior season and withdraw from the draft, as relayed by David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News (Twitter link). Crutcher averaged a career-high 15.1 points this past season, raising his shooting percentage to 47%.

Draft Notes: Tilmon, M. Smith, Early Entrants

After Missouri guard Xavier Pinson announced earlier this week that he was pulling out of the 2020 NBA draft to return to school for another year, a pair of his teammates who had been testing the waters have followed suit.

According to Mizzou Hoops (Twitter link), forwards Jeremiah Tilmon and Mitchell Smith are also returning to the Tigers for their senior seasons in 2020/21.

Neither Tilmon nor Smith was a full-time starter at Missouri this past season. Tilmon averaged 8.2 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 17 games (19.9 MPG), while Smith recorded 5.1 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 30 games (21.9 MPG). They’ll each play one more season in college before becoming automatically draft-eligible in 2021.

Here’s more on the draft:

  • NCAA prospects who are testing the draft waters have until August 3 to decide whether or not to withdraw. As Jeff Goodman of Stadium writes, many players still weighing their decisions would like more time, given the uncertainty surrounding the 2020/21 NCAA season and the lack of an NBA combine so far. “It would definitely help (to extend the withdrawal deadline),” Iowa’s Luka Garza said. “The last week has been very stressful mentally thinking about it all. I don’t know what to do.”
  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype takes a closer look at Garza and several other prospects who are still testing the waters, examining whether or not it makes sense for them to stay in the draft.
  • The Athletic’s beat writers for the Knicks, Hawks, Warriors, Pistons, and Cavaliers conducted a mini-mock draft for the first five picks, based on a Tankathon simulation. The results were interesting, with Mike Vorkunov taking Anthony Edwards for New York at No. 1, Chris Kirschner selecting Deni Avdija for Atlanta at No. 2, and LaMelo Ball slipping to Detroit at No. 4.
  • Bryant guard Benson Lin has decided to forgo his remaining NCAA eligibility and play professionally in China next season, a source tells Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Lin could technically still enter this year’s draft, since the entry deadline has been pushed back. However, he can go pro without doing so, and Rothstein’s report doesn’t mention the draft.

Draft Notes: Garza, Walker, Nembhard, Mann

The uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft process may cause Wooden Award runner-up Luka Garza to return to Iowa for another season, writes Myron Medcalf of ESPN.

“I think it all depends on what teams are telling me in these interviews and what they’re seeing on film,” Garza said. “I’m not leaving for an unknown or an uncertain. That’s the one thing about this process, is I need to know for sure there will be an opportunity for me next year (in the NBA) because if I don’t, it’s too risky to leave behind what I have at Iowa. I don’t want to do anything that I’m not sure about.”

The 6’11” junior says he’s not “leaning” either way, but wants an opportunity to prove himself at NBA workouts. He averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds this season, but isn’t projected to be drafted. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Garza 80th on his list of 2020’s top 100 prospects.

“This year is obviously an interesting process with everything that’s going on,” Garza said. “I haven’t been able to work out in front of teams. I think I could prove a lot of things in workouts. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Ohio State guard CJ Walker announced today on Instagram that he will take his name out of the draft and return to school for his senior season. Walker averaged 8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists this year. “After talking to my family and coach (Chris) Holtmann, I have officially notified the NBA that I am withdrawing from consideration for the 2020 NBA Draft,” Walker wrote. “The feedback we received was very helpful and I’m looking forward to getting back to work with my teammates. I love playing in front of Buckeye nation and I can’t wait to finish my degree and my playing career here at THE Ohio State University!”
  • Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard is also leaving the draft, but he won’t be returning to the Gators, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN. With two years of eligibility remaining, Nembhard plans to transfer and may seek a waiver allowing him to play next season. Nembhard hired agent Jaafar Choufani, who is certified by the NBA, so he is free to return to college basketball.
  • Nembhard’s spot in Florida’s starting backcourt will likely be taken by Tre Mann, who has also decided to withdraw from the draft, sources tell Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.

Duke’s Vernon Carey Jr. Expected To Go Pro

Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. is expected to be declare for the NBA draft with the intention of staying in and going pro, a source tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link).

In his first and potentially only season as a Blue Devil, Carey averaged 17.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 31 games (24.9 MPG). He shot 57.7% from the field and even made 38.1% of his tries from beyond the arc, albeit on just 21 three-point attempts.

Carey, currently ranked No. 28 on ESPN’s big board, has shown the makings of an inside-outside game and is a very strong positional rebounder, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz writes in his scouting report. Schmitz cautions that the big man has dealt with some health and conditioning issues and struggles with defending in space and seeing the floor when passing.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • Iowa big man Luka Garza, ranked 81st on ESPN’s big board, announced on Twitter that he is entering the draft while maintaining his college eligibility. Garza had a big year in 2019/20 as a junior, averaging 23.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 1.8 BPG on .542/.358/.651 shooting in 31 games (32.0 MPG).
  • Mississippi State junior guard Nick Weatherspoon, who tweeted a farewell message today to fans, will be declaring for the draft and going pro, sources confirm to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Weatherspoon, who first tested the draft waters in 2018, increased his averages to 11.6 PPG and 4.1 APG in 2019/20. He projects to go undrafted.
  • Creighton junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander is expected to enter the draft and will likely forgo his remaining college eligibility, a source tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link). Alexander is coming off a big year in which he led the Bluejays with 16.9 PPG while chipping in 5.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG while making 39.9% of his threes.
  • In case you missed it, we wrote earlier this afternoon about how NBA teams hope to convince the league to push the draft back until at least August.