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Katz: Plenty to prove in Chicago

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Thursday, June 5
Updated: June 6, 7:01 PM ET
So far, so good for Nelson
By Andy Katz

CHICAGO -- Saint Joseph's assistant coach Monte Ross started squirming after Jameer Nelson hit a mid-range jumper. He fidgeted a little more when Nelson drove to the lane and finished with a layup. Ross said his stomach got a bit tighter as his potential first-team All-American point guard started dishing out assists flawlessly and scoring with little effort Wednesday night at the Chicago pre-draft camp.

To Stay Or Go?
Jameer Nelson
Saint Joseph's junior point guard Jameer Nelson arrives at the NBA pre-draft camp at a crossroads. He will likely base his decision on whether to remain in the draft or withdraw his name and return to college on how he performs over the next three days. Check back each day as's Andy Katz tracks Nelson's progress or struggles in Chicago as he figures out where to play next season.

Peering over the top of the rail at the Moody Bible Institute, Ross could see Nelson's energy level peeking with each of his seven assists. Nelson was clearly enjoying himself as he made 4 of 7 shots, sank 5 of 6 free throws and scored 13 points without turning the ball over once. Leading by example and encouraging Kentucky's Keith Bogans, North Dakota's Jerome Beasley and constantly smiling each time he went back to the bench, Nelson was doing all the right things to impress NBA scouts.

So, Ross did what he knew he should, he called Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli to tell him, well, the good news.

"He looked good out there," Ross said after Nelson's first game against fellow NBA hopefuls.

Martelli said late Wednesday night he heard the same report from the few NBA teams he called to get their reaction. But, he also found out Nelson is still where both the Saint Joseph's staff, Nelson and NBA types thought prior to the camp -- a possible mid-to-late first-round pick, or a high second-round pick. The problem remains, however, that teams aren't going to commit to him, let alone guarantee him a spot in the first round.

Measured without shoes, Nelson came up at 5-foot-11 Wednesday afternoon. Nelson said he knew that would be the case. He wasn't hiding anything when he was listed at 6-foot or 6-1 at various times throughout his career.

"I'm not going to grow anymore," said the beaming junior point guard after his team's 109-90 win. Nelson had his way with Pittsburgh senior Brandin Knight. Knight couldn't hang with Nelson, finishing with just four points, four fouls, two assists and two turnovers. While Nelson was talking to a few reporters, his red Phillies cap chocked to one side in a sign of loyalty to his hometown, Knight hobbled past him.

"You alright?" Nelson hollered out to Knight. The oft-injured Knight motioned that he might be hurting.

Nelson shrugged, got back to telling everyone how pleased he was the team meshed quickly after one day.

"This gives us confidence that we can win here," said Nelson, even though this isn't a tournament format but just three daily games, or scrimmages. "The large margin was a surprise."

Nelson chose this week to prove himself to the NBA, rather than attend the U.S. Pan American trials. If he stays in the draft (he can return to St. Joe's since he hasn't signed with an agent) then he can't play on the team this summer in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

"There's more competition here and more people to see you," Nelson said.

If the draft deadline were after Day 1 of Chicago, Nelson might not be returning to Saint Joseph's. But he still had games Thursday and Friday to gauge himself against the rest of the field. Weber State's Jermaine Boyette and Hawaii's Carl English were the next guards he will go against Thursday. Ross might want to pick up some antacid if Nelson duplicates Wednesday's game.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at
NBA draft