Kentucky, Louisville bigs meet in Chi-town
CHICAGO Sorry, Kentucky and Louisville fans.
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It happened, here, of all places, at the Lakeshore Athletic Club in downtown Chicago Wednesday afternoon, in a workout set up by SFX and attended by nearly every NBA team.
It wasn't much, mostly drills entry passes into the post, some dunking and setting screens for the other two members of the workout, Duke senior Daniel Ewing and Arkansas sophomore Olu Famutimi.
But it was enough that both centers are leaning toward staying in the draft.
"It's probably pretty slim," Morris said of the chance he and Cardinals recruit Johnson will meet in a highly anticipated matchup at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
"He might decide to go [to the NBA] or I might or one of us," Morris said.
Morris pulled out of the Chicago predraft camp Tuesday and instead opted for this private workout. When asked who advised him to do that, he laughed and said, "a source."
It's unclear whether Johnson was invited to the NBA predraft camp going on here this week at the Moody Bible Institute. Regardless, Johnson is pursuing draft options, too.
He wouldn't rule out going to Louisville, even if he were a second-round pick. He said he has talked to Louisville coach Rick Pitino about still going to school if he lands in the second round. High school seniors can stay in the draft, get selected and still go to school if they don't sign with an agent. But the team that drafts the high school player owns his rights until a year after his eligibility expires.
College underclassmen are ineligible to return to school if they are selected in the draft.
"If I go second round, then I'll probably go hang with coach Pitino," Johnson said. "I don't know why no one would do that."
Johnson then said he would pull his name out if he weren't a lock for the first round, so there's some confusion whether he will actually stay in the draft past the June 21 deadline.
There's another issue that may impact that decision Johnson still isn't eligible to play in college. He said his grades are fine but he's awaiting his standardized test scores. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Thursday that fellow signee Clarence Holloway, the other center in the 2005 Louisville recruiting class, was ineligible and would go to a prep school.
Johnson, a lanky, rubbery 6-foot-9 center from Westchester (Calif.) High and a McDonald's All-American, has already worked out for Sacramento. He said he has workouts lined up with Miami, Toronto, the Lakers and a few others he couldn't remember.
The 6-10 Morris has worked out for Memphis and expects more to follow.
Morris is the stockier and sturdier of the two and has more defined post moves than Johnson, whose feature "move" is still the dunk. Yet he didn't exactly tear up the SEC last season as a freshman.
Morris did lead the league in field-goal percentage (52.8) but averaged only 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19.8 minutes a game, starting all but one contest for the Wildcats.
But that output might be enough for him to stay in the draft. Remember, he was close to declaring a year ago when his Atlanta Celtics AAU teammates Dwight Howard and Josh Smith both entered the draft. So this should come as no surprise to the Kentucky staff.
"They knew this was my dream," Morris said. "The sooner I get there, the better."
Morris said he told Kentucky coach Tubby Smith of his intentions before school ended and then, when he got home to Atlanta, he faxed Smith his decision as well as doing the same to the NBA office in New York. He said he hasn't spoken to the Kentucky staff since because he has been traveling and the Wildcats' coaches were recruiting.
"Kentucky was a positive for me and I learned a lot," Morris said. "It helped how I carry myself and how I react to fans. My IQ shot up and I learned a lot from [assistant coach Dave Hobbs] and coach Smith."
Morris said that because his father works for Delta Airlines, paying for flights to workouts next week isn't an issue. The hotel lodging would be the only expense he would have to incur while deciding on whether he stays in the draft.
If Morris does leave, the Wildcats are left with Lukasz Obrzut (1.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg) and Shagari Alleyne (2.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg) in the post.
Morris is projected to go anywhere from late in the first to high in the second round. The same is true for Johnson.
As for the guards at the workout, Ewing is a senior, so his amateur status isn't in question. Famutimi, though, still could go back to school. He said he's keeping his options open and is hoping for a first-round guarantee.
Famutimi didn't get an invite to the Chicago predraft camp after averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds with the Hogs (18-12, 6-10 in the SEC West). Famutimi didn't even make the NBA's draft media guide.
"A lot of people don't think I can play, but I can," Famutimi said. "I'm pretty sure I can get some workouts. But I don't want to ruin my future. We've got a great team at Arkansas. We could be real good with or without me next season."
If Famutimi, Johnson or Morris opts for school next season, he'll likely incur an NCAA inquiry over Wednesday's workout. SFX representatives told ESPN.com they paid for the facility (a few hundred dollars). Under NCAA rules, these players would have to reimburse the agency for the price of the facility (or at least their shares).
Two years ago, Charlie Villanueva dealt with a similar issue at an agent-sponsored workout in Chicago. Once he withdrew from the draft and went to Connecticut, he had to explain his expenses. He ended up sitting out the first six games of his freshman season.
Georgetown junior Brandon Bowman was also supposed to participate in the workout but didn't show, indicating to SFX that he would return to the Hoyas.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com
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