This week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago could make or break several prospective draft picks, determining their futures. But it also will shape next year’s college basketball season for several programs that have players who have yet to commit to entering the professional ranks or returning to college. That deadline is May 30.
Here are five schools that have the most to lose — or gain — in the next few days:
The defending national champions already will lose National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and potential top-10 pick Mikal Bridges. Super sub Donte DiVincenzo, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and freshman forward Omari Spellman could be gone, too. DiVincenzo, nicknamed “The Michael Jordan of Delaware,” is a projected first-round pick, while the sweet-shooting 6-foot-9 Spellman needs to impress this week to cement himself as a first-rounder. If one — or both — return, the Wildcats, who get back starters Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, add Albany graduate transfer Joe Cremo and a top recruiting class, will be a Final Four favorite.
The Wildcats’ season doesn’t rest on the return of forward PJ Washington. He, however, would give Kentucky’s front line some much-needed experience. Washington reportedly would stay in the draft if he has a first-round guarantee, otherwise he may go back to school. The physical 6-foot-7 forward, who got better as his freshman season went on, is a load in the paint, but there are questions about his ability to score more than a few feet away from the basket at the next level, and if he is quick enough to guard wings or big enough to handle forwards.
If the Martin twins return, Reno will be home to a legitimate powerhouse. Coach Eric Musselman already is adding transfers Tre’Shawn Thurman (Nebraska-Omaha), Corey Henson (Wagner), Nisre Zouzoua (Bryant) and Jazz Johnson (Portland), along with McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown. Cody and Caleb Martin, both versatile 6-foot-7 wings, led Nevada to its second Sweet 16 in program history, and both will be looking to catch the eye of NBA personnel, showcase their defensive ability, and at times shaky shot selection. Neither is considered a first-round pick, giving Wolf Pack fans hope.
All eyes in Central New York will be following sophomore guard Tyus Battle at the combine. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Edison, N.J., keyed the Orange’s stunning run to the Sweet 16. They already lost top recruit Darius Bazley, who opted to enter the professional ranks of the G-League rather than attend college. Without Battle, who averaged 19.2 points per game but shot just 39 percent from the field, the team’s ceiling has a limit. A big performance, one in which he displays playmaking abilities and shooting consistency, could vault Battle into the first round, and a poor one could send him back to Syracuse.
No program may have more on the line this week than the Terps. Arguably their two best players, big man Bruno Fernando and wing Kevin Huerter, are both in Chicago, and have yet to decide their futures. Huerter, a multi-talented sophomore best known for his long-range shot, and the 6-foot-10 Fernando have to prove themselves after an underwhelming, NCAA Tournament-less season for the Terrapins.