Derrick Hord is just like you and I, in as much as we are puzzled by the decision by Morris to “test” the NBA climate, after such a sub par year. "I haven’t seen him this summer, and what he’s doing to get ready, but given the way that he played last year, I thought there were only brief moments which I thought he was ready for the NBA. I think you have to show that consistency to really be viable in the NBA.:
With the announcement last week that Randolph Morris would appear at the Chicago NBA pre-draft tuneup June 7-10, brought the total of Kentucky players to three that would try to impress NBA scouts and team personnel, and hopefully make their way up the draft board.
Morris has been flirting with first round status in all the mock drafts from around the Internet. But as everyone knows, a mock draft and fifty cents will barely buy you a cup of coffee these days.
Morris, for the first time since announcing that he would test the waters of the NBA, has made a decision that has made sense. If you want to improve your stock, you have to get in front of those that make the decisions and play well. There is always the risk of not making a good impression, but to truly get a fair assessment, playing is a necessity.
Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes do not have that luxury. They have no other option than to try and play their way into the draft. They are not graced with the height that Morris was given, which, by the way, is the only reason he is being considered as a possible first round pick. It cannot be because of his play last season for the Wildcats.
Derrick Hord came to mind many times while thinking of Chuck Hayes and his plight to make the NBA ranks. Derrick was similar in size and play to Chuck for the Kentucky basketball program. And like Chuck, he was a borderline draft choice and played in the Portsmouth Invitational draft camp. “It was a whole lot different when I got out twenty two years ago,” said Hord. “There weren’t that many camps for one thing. You had very few opportunities to make a really good impression to help your position. Those that knew they were going to be in the first or second round, they didn’t even show up for those things. But the guys that were unsure, they went, just like our guys are trying to do now.”
There wasn’t as much competition for the spots back then. Hord did not have to contend with more underclassmen in the draft than seniors. Back then underclassmen in the draft were very rare. And the foreign players were not coming from overseas in droves.
“There were a few more opportunities. But one of the major differences that I see, is that these guys have almost personal trainers, to help them get in shape, and that’s key. If you go, and you’re in shape, that means everything in the world.”
Another big key for the Kentucky guys, is the fact that they are well versed in the ways of the Tubby Smith defense. And any one who trains like a jedi under Tubby, can use that defensive specialization to his advantage. Tayshaun Prince is a perfect example.
Hord also thinks defense is making a comeback in the league. And he uses another Detroit player as his example. “You look at someone like Ben Wallace. He was definitely not a well-known name coming out of school [Virginia Union ‘96]. But he has made a name for himself in the NBA, not only as a pretty good offensive player, but he’s a stopper. And that’s what some of these Kentucky guys can do. If they go in there and just play really hard-nosed, aggressive defense, that’s just one more weapon that they might have to impress the scouts.”
Needless to say, Hord is just like you and I, in as much as we are puzzled by the decision by Morris to “test” the NBA climate, after such a sub par year. “I haven’t seen him this summer, and what he’s doing to get ready, but given the way that he played last year, I thought there were only brief moments which I thought he was ready for the NBA. I think you have to show that consistency to really be viable in the NBA. But, having said that, there might be a team out there that says they’re willing to take a project and work with him. They see the potential. They need a big man. They think they can work something out with him. And it very easily could happen. He could have a big camp. He could impress somebody. And he could certainly make it.”
The easy decision, according to Hord, was to actually play in the camp in Chicago. “It’s kind of a catch-22. If you think you are going to do well in the draft, then you avoid playing. Then some guys that do play, and play really, really well might end up passing you up because you weren’t there. It is a give and take game when it comes to the draft. If you impress the right people at the right time, they can help you. And if you do something weird at the wrong time, it can hurt you, too.”
Look for KSR’s coverage of the Chicago pre-draft camp next week beginning on Tuesday night. I will be on location at the Moody Bible Institute to cover all three Wildcats and their attempt to make the NBA.