NBA Draft coverage starts tonight at 7 PM on ESPN and it will be a one night event. Similar to the NFL Draft in April, this year's crop of eligible Tech players looks to be subpar. There is a very real possibility that no one from last season's squad will hear their name called. If you haven't been keeping up with draft news, however, there is one player you should keep your eye out for tonight, and his name is Glen Rice Jr.
Although Georgia Tech has had a massive talent overhaul in the last year and a half and looks like a tournament team next season, they're still a year or two away from consistently sending players to the NBA. Glen Rice Jr. had the potential to become a star in college, but his off the court troubles forced his early exit from Tech. According to multiple media outlets, however, he has supposedly matured over the last year and is less of a gamble than teams might have originally thought.
What's even more impressive is his maturity on the basketball court. During his tenure with Georgia Tech, he displayed the talent to become a go to scorer, but wasn't nearly as efficient as one would like to see. He seems to have corrected this part of his game, however, while spending the last year in the NBA Development League. During the regular season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Rice Jr. averaged 24 MPG with 13 PPG, 6 RPG, and 2 APG with a .491 field goal percentage. While impressive, those stats aren't the reason why he's a possible first round pick in the draft tonight. When Rice Jr. finally got star playing time in the playoffs (39.2 MPG), he exploded for 25 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2 SPG and 2 BPG with a .473 field goal percentage and an efficiency rating of 27.33. Those numbers speak for themselves and he will get drafted based on those numbers. While there will always be questions over his maturity and discipline, at least one team will find his potential to be too great to pass up.
Most mock drafts have Rice Jr. as a borderline first round pick, but some have him going all the way up into the teens. Every team in the middle to back of the first round is looking for players who can contribute immediately, and Rice Jr. seems to fit that bill. ESPN's Chad Ford has him going to the Houston Rockets at pick 34 and had this to say about him:
Analysis: It would be poetic justice if Rice slips out of the first and lands here. He played for the Rockets' D-League team, the Vipers. They love him. He could go as high as 15 to Milwaukee, but I think this is his floor.
The Rockets could use another scoring threat to go with Harden and Parsons, and he would be a cheap offensive weapon off the bench, which will be important if they make the major FA front court acquisitions like they've been planning. Rice Jr. has made the best of his opportunities since being kicked off of Tech's basketball team, and will hopefully continue to produce when given the chance at the NBA level.
After Rice Jr., there aren't any former Georgia Tech players who have a legitimate chance of being drafted tonight, but Udofia has a chance to get a training camp invite. He has had pre-draft workouts with the Kings, Jazz, and Hawks, but those teams are more likely to pursue him as an undrafted FA instead of actually drafting him. Udofia has some strengths in his game, but his college production and athleticism don't match up with other players who are drafted each year. Although he played on some bad teams, his shooting stats have never been comparable to other drafted PG's, which should be worrisome to most GM's and head coaches throughout the league. As I mentioned above, Udofia will get an invite to a team's training camp, but there is unfortunately a very good chance he won't hear his name called.
While it's unfortunate that Tech is unable to send off any players from last year's squad to the NBA through the draft, there is still hope for future seasons. Brian Gregory seems to be doing a tremendous job of bringing in talent through transfers and recruiting and a good bit of them should hear their names being called in the future.
Back in August of last year, would you have expected Georgia Tech to not send a single player from this year's football and basketball teams to the pros?