- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- No college coach in the country is fretting over the NBA draft withdrawal deadline more than Nevada's Mark Fox. No college coach in the country stands to lose more by cheering his own players here at the NBA pre-draft camp whenever they make a shot, dish out an assist or come up with a steal.
That's because no other college coach has two underclassmen playing in the draft camp like Fox.
Junior guards Ramon Sessions and Marcelus Kemp are attempting to crack the first round of the draft or even the high second round by playing well this week. If they can get some sort of assurance that they're being considered that high, they likely will jump into the draft.
"It's tough because you have to support your players, but if you do, you know you're going to hurt your program," said Fox, sitting high above the Milk House court Wednesday afternoon watching Sessions and Kemp play for Team No. 6 in its 106-84 victory over Team No. 5. Sessions played well, with seven assists and only one turnover to go along with 10 points. Kemp chipped in with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with a 3-pointer that snapped the net as he held his form for an extra second.
"The bottom line is that you have to have the best interests at heart for the kids that played for you," Fox said. "But I could have either the best backcourt in America [next season] or I could have the most inexperienced team in America since I would lose all five starters."
The Wolf Pack get senior forward Demarshay Johnson back next season after he sat out this past season because of academic issues. So if Kemp and Sessions return, Fox would have three starters back from a team that won 27 games two seasons ago and claimed the WAC title. Reserve centers JaVale McGee and David Ellis are both capable of making an impact as starters next season.
Nevada won the WAC this past season and beat Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Memphis in the second round.
"I've told them both that if they come back, they'll battle each other for [WAC] player of the year," Fox said. "There are days when I think they're both coming back, days when I think one is coming back and days when they're both gone. I don't know. They're both smart kids, and they'll make an educated decision."
Sessions said he knows it must be tough on Fox to watch him and Kemp. He understands that Fox would have a hard time with it because the team's fortunes next season are directly tied to how the two play this week.
"But he's been great, like a father to us, and real supportive," Sessions said.
Neither player said he needed a guarantee of the first round to stay in the draft. Being high in the second round is palatable. But anything below that likely will mean a return to Reno.
"We have to do what's best for our families," Kemp said. "But if it's in the middle of the second round or undrafted, I'll go back to school."
Kemp would be going back for his sixth season after missing 2002-03 with a foot injury and 2004-05 with a torn ACL. He turned 23 two weeks ago.
Sessions, who is more of a traditional point guard compared with Kemp, who is more of a strong off guard, played three seasons in a row at Nevada.
A year ago, Fox went through this process with Fazekas. The difference was that the NBA allowed players to work out for teams before the draft camp. Fazekas worked out, and by the time the draft camp rolled around, he was battling tendinitis and Fox said he knew where Fazekas stood -- likely going back to school.
Kemp said he likes the new rules better with no workouts until after the draft camp. That means he can see who really wants him before making a decision by the June 18 deadline whether to withdraw from the June 28 draft.
Meanwhile, Fox's season planning is on hold. He said he'll be down to 11 scholarships if both players stay in the draft, and he can't finish his nonconference schedule because too many teams are waiting to see what kind of team Nevada will have next season. He said he anticipates he won't finish the schedule until August or September.
"If they don't come back, I just want them to make the NBA," Fox said. "I don't want them in the D-League."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.