Between camp games, there's still action
CHICAGO It has come to this.
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried and his assistant Philip Pearson had to fly up to Chicago for the day Thursday so they could watch their fifth-leading scorer from last season go through drills in front of NBA personnel.
Draft camp coverage Friday
• Katz: Side shows
• Ford: Day 3 review
• DW: Explorer exploring
• Blog: Media day musings
They made this effort because they wanted to show their support while also finding out just what was going on with the draft status of sophomore forward Jermareo Davidson.
This is the underbelly of the draft process, the part that isn't as easy to digest for college coaches.
So, the two coaches watched Davidson, with averages of 7.6 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds a game on his résumé, performing midrange jumpers and drop-step moves in front of NBA personnel at lunchtime at the Moody Bible Institute.
Roughly 10 minutes into the workout, an unidentified man sitting nearby says to Gottfried, "If he keeps making those shots you may have coached his last game, already."
In the bizarre world of the NBA draft, Davidson's path to test the process is becoming the norm. Six-foot-10 Davidson wasn't invited to the Chicago predraft camp this week and wasn't even deemed worthy enough to crack the 2005 NBA draft media guide.
Yet, here he is, after a month of working out at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as an extra in an NBA-allowed workout for Spain's Rudy Fernandez during the break between draft camp games. The NBA broke from tradition this year and allowed agent-sponsored workouts to be on the NBA's turf at Moody Bible instead of at off-site gyms around the city.
Davidson joined Auburn freshman point guard Toney Douglas (more on this similar case later), Notre Dame junior Torin Francis (a camper this week), Alabama senior Earnest Shelton (not invited to the camp) and Chauncey Billups' brother Rodney, a senior at Denver.
They ran some drills. That's it. Thanks for coming. First round, anyone?
"It's hard to imagine an NBA team would form a different opinion after 20 minutes here as opposed to 30 games we play," Gottfried said. "Most of the teams watch our players and have opinions on college players. I don't exactly know what this does."
Gottfried said he was here to support Davidson and Shelton, for that matter in their quests. But the reality is Gottfried also is here to check out what environment Davidson is being thrust into. He said Davidson has told him on a number of occasions that he would come back to school for his junior season if he weren't going in the first round.
Davidson should probably make sure he has a dorm room ready for the fall.
No one in the league or at Alabama is debating that he could be a pro someday. But no one involved with an NBA team is willing to guarantee him anything right now. So, why come?
"For the experience," Davidson said. "Once I saw that I wasn't in the camp, it looked like a good opportunity. I'm not sure what happens after this. I won't settle for the second round. If I can't go in the first round, then I'll go back to school."
It would be easy if it just ended there. But Davidson said that if he gets an offer for an individual workout, then he'll take it and push this up until the June 21 deadline.
Shelton said that Davidson showed his athleticism and proved he could make shots, block shots and put the ball on the floor. But he did all of this without one key part of the sport defense.
That apparently doesn't matter to the players, at least.
"In college, it's tough to show your talents because there is so much help-side [defense] and everybody is doubling," Shelton said. "Things like this show you can play one-on-one. This was a great opportunity for him."
Joe Abunassar, who trains NBA players and draft hopefuls, worked with Davidson in Florida and ran the workout Thursday. The intent was to showcase the basic skill level of these players.
"A workout like this, it's hard not for it to be boring since everyone is talking," Abunassar said. "[Davidson] has had a pro regimen the last month and a half. He's been eating a breakfast, working out for 90 minutes, lunch, treatment, another court session, playing five-on-five and weight training.
"He's had a work day from 9 to 5, and if he can apply that to the summer, then most college coaches would love it if a guy came back with that work ethic," Abunassar said.
Still, you can see that the taste is in Davidson's mouth, and the intoxication of a flirtation with the NBA could keep him daydreaming for another few weeks about staying in the draft.
The lure of seeing whether he can get into the first round swept up Douglas, too.
He couldn't get into Chicago, either, yet chose to be a part of this workout.
"I'll see where I stand on June 17 or 18 and talk to my parents and then go over whether I should stay in the draft or not," said Douglas, who averaged 16.9 points a game for the archrival Tigers this season. Douglas has worked out for Memphis, Cleveland and New Orleans and said he's got five or six more pending.
"I'll go back to school if I'm not a first-rounder," Douglas said. "I'm not going to waste it [entering the draft] after one year. You want to get that first-round guarantee."
Did Davidson do enough to stay in the draft? You wouldn't think so. But the thought that he could was enough to draw half the staff from Tuscaloosa for a Chicago sojourn.
Alabama could be a factor in the SEC West race even with the departures of junior Kennedy Winston and Shelton. With or without Davidson on the team, point guard Ronald Steele is enough of a matchup issue that the Tide could be a factor next season. But they certainly wouldn't have the same comfort zone inside without Davidson.
You can see why Gottfried and Pearson had to be here. Whether you can justify NBA personnel's spending the lunch hour watching drills is debatable.
The reality is that college coaches aren't in the clear when their player should have been invited to the camp but didn't get a bite. The easiest way to go through the early-entry process is to have a player come into the camp. The unknown of Davidson's being left out and pursuing his own course of action makes his approach harder to predict.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com
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