Wright leaving options open, for now
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Dwight Howard was the first high school player to officially declare for the NBA draft last week.
Could Dorell Wright be next?
That's not exactly the name that was expected to follow Howard. Josh Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Al Jefferson and Shaun Livingston, maybe. But Wright?
Wright told ESPN.com on the eve of Saturday night's Jordan Capital Classic at the Comcast Center that he wants to declare for the draft, go to the Chicago pre-draft camp in June and see if he can be in the top 20 in the first round.
If he can't get that kind of guarantee, then he would honor his commitment and attend DePaul next fall.
"I know I'm going to go to the predraft camp,'' Wright said. "But I need to be in the first 20 (to stay in the draft)."
Wright is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward from South Kent Prep School (Conn.) who averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds a game. He was named the MVP of the National Prep School Invitational Tournament.
He's likely a second-round pick if he were to stay in the draft. But that doesn't seem to matter much with the high school players in this game exposed to only NBA scouts and general managers. College coaches aren't allowed to come to the practices or the games. The players don't converse with the NBA personnel, but it's hard not to be influenced when they scouts dominate the stands.
"We have no contact at these all-star games so the conversation becomes imbalanced,'' DePaul coach Dave Leitao said of his frustration that he can't reach out to Wright to tell him to avoid the temptation of the NBA.
"We talked last week and he was saying he would go to college but somebody within the last few days has given him alternative information,'' said Leitao.
Leitao withdrew from the St. John's head coaching search two weeks ago to stay at DePaul. After leading the Blue Demons to a share of the Conference USA regular-season title and the NCAA Tournament second round in his second season, he is recruiting Wright as much as the rules allow.
High school seniors can declare for the draft, go to Chicago's pre-draft camp, withdraw and go to school. They can also go through the draft and still attend college. But if they do that then the team that drafts them owns their rights at that draft position (say spot No. 50 and the money that comes with that) until the year after their eligibility expires. College players cannot return to college if they have been selected in the draft.
Wright would still have to be invited to the Chicago pre-draft camp by the NBA. James Lang, a high school senior a year ago, was invited and did participate. Charlie Villanueva chose not to and was involved in an agent-sponsored workout with fellow high school player Ndudi Ebi. Ebi stayed in the draft. Villanueva didn't and that resulted in him being investigated by the NCAA. He sat out the Huskies' first six games as a result.
There could be as many as 10 high school players who declare for the draft this June.
"This is a crazy class,'' Wright said. "There are a lot of kids who want to come out.''
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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