Commentary

Pargo looks for first-round guarantee in weighing draft options

Originally Published: May 30, 2008
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jeremy Pargo will find it very difficult to get a first-round guarantee.

And if that is truly his cutoff point, he should -- and will -- go back to Gonzaga for his senior season.

But projecting what an early-entrant is going to do is hardly an exact science.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pargo
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeremy Pargo averaged 12 points and six assists per game last year.

The difference here is that Pargo has a brother in the NBA (New Orleans guard Jannero Pargo) who is telling him he doesn't want Jeremy to go through the same arduous undrafted path to the league.

"He [Jannero] wants me to be smart about things," Pargo said at the Milk House on the campus of Disney's Wide World of Sports. "He doesn't want me to go through the same thing he went through."

Pargo said he has scheduled nine workouts, which begin next week after the draft camp concludes. He has until June 16 to decide on whether to withdraw from the NBA draft.

All it takes is for one team to like you enough to get into the first round. But in an informal poll among a number of teams, Pargo's name isn't coming up as any kind of first-round lock.

The consensus coming out of the camp has been that North Carolina's Ty Lawson can get into the first round. There has been a smattering of approval for a few other players (maybe UNC teammate Wayne Ellington), but there isn't a consensus on anyone else.

To be fair, a year ago, the only player at the camp with a consensus for the first round was Ohio State's Daequan Cook. The other two players who competed in the pre-draft camp and were selected in the first round -- Boston College's Jared Dudley and Oregon's Aaron Brooks -- weren't overwhelming favorites to do so. But Charlotte and Houston liked both of them enough to select them with their picks.

Dudley and Brooks were seniors. Cook was a freshman. Pargo will essentially be making a major gamble if he decides to stay in the draft since his goal is truly to be a first-round pick.

"In all our discussions, and I don't want to speak for Jannero, but I feel we're on the same page. He needs to be a first-round pick," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who flew from Spokane to offer support to Pargo.

"But if he comes back [to school], he can be on a really, really good basketball team and be in a position to have a great year with a lot of attention. With the schedule we have and what he's done so far, [he has] a chance to be a first-team All-American," Few said.

Pargo's situation can be equated -- to some extent -- to Jameer Nelson's of Saint Joseph's in 2003, even though they're not the same type of player. Nelson's decision-making skills were better, his shooting was more consistent and, albeit a tad shorter, he was stronger. But Nelson declared for the 2003 draft and played in the Chicago pre-draft camp, but he couldn't get a guarantee that he would go in the first round. He went back to Saint Joe's in 2004, led the Hawks to a magical undefeated regular season, was named national Player of the Year and took the team to the Elite Eight.

He eventually was picked in the first round at No. 20 to Denver, which then traded him to Orlando.

Like Nelson, Pargo has a legitimate chance to be an All-American (whether it's first, second or third-team), can lead the Zags deep into the NCAAs and can be a late first-round pick in 2009. It is highly unlikely that Pargo could sniff the first round, considering the glut of lead guards coming out this season: Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Jerryd Bayless, Russell Westbrook (assuming he stays in the draft and doesn't go back to UCLA), D.J. Augustin, possibly Kansas' Mario Chalmers and Lawson (the latter two still haven't said they're staying in the draft yet). There's no guarantee that he would go high enough in the second round to receive guaranteed money, either.

But if he comes back [to school], he can be on a really, really good basketball team and be in a position to have a great year with a lot of attention.

-- Mark Few on Jeremy Pargo

The problem for Pargo is his decision-making. He can be out of control and make the go-ahead pass, which sometimes isn't always there for a converted layup. Pargo and Few said that criticism is legitimate. "I've shown that I can make a lot of mistakes in the past," Pargo said. "I'm focusing on cleaning that up here."

Few added that Pargo's on-ball defense also has to improve. "I know he can do that and show during his senior year that he's really focused on it."

Going back to Spokane, which Pargo said was a dramatic adjustment from Chicago (he went to Robeson High three years ago), isn't an issue. If he returns, he said he's going back to a top-10 team. He admits that it's a team that can be special, plays in a great atmosphere and has a coaching staff he has bonded with well over the past three years.

Gonzaga won't wilt if Pargo does decide to skip his senior year. Few said that Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray can handle the ball and that incoming freshmen Demetri Goodson and Grant Gibbs were both recruited to be playmakers. "We'd be young, [but] not as good at the position because we'd be losing one of the best point guards in college basketball," Few said.

But if Pargo returns, the hype on the Zags is legitimate. Gonzaga, which lost to Davidson by six points in one of the better NCAA tournament first-round games in March, loses only glue-guys David Pendergraft and Abdullahi Kuso off the WCC regular-season championship team.

The Zags bring back a potential big-time scorer in Bouldin, a rising star in Austin Daye, the often-thought of upside post player Josh Heytvelt (coming off foot surgery), the top 3-point threat in Gray and Micah Downs, who still hasn't reached his potential since transferring from Kansas. Add Pargo to that mix, and the Zags legitimately can be a top-15 to -20 team.

They'll play Memphis, Tennessee, Washington State and a host of good teams in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, which includes Georgetown, Michigan State, the Vols, Oklahoma State, Siena and Maryland.

So, as Pargo jets around to visit Boston, Toronto, New Jersey, Washington, Portland, Seattle, Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans and maybe San Antonio, he'll know that he has a pretty solid safety net.

Few didn't have to sweat out Adam Morrison's decision two years ago. He was going to go in the top five in the draft (No. 3), so he was in the draft as soon as he declared. But the Zags coach did want to caution Pargo that the moment he does sign with an agent, the fun of being on a college team is over. It's a business from that point forward. The feedback he has received from former Zags Morrison, Ronny Turiaf, Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp and Richie Frahm is that the collegial experience is missed.

And that's what Pargo will weigh: Whether to gamble on his future or take the sure thing at least for another year -- the chance to play in the cocoon of Gonzaga, where all is good for him.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com