Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ater and There

O.K., here's the deal with the news of Ater Majok making himself eligible for the 2009 NBA draft -- don't worry about it. He will almost certainly be suiting up for the Huskies starting in December.

By declaring for the draft, Majok will be able to attend pre-draft workouts with NBA teams. It will allow him to go up against some of the best players in the country and assess just how far along he is as a player. But Majok didn't hire an agent, which means he can elect to return to school by June 15 – 10 days before the draft – if it doesn't appear he's going to be selected by a team. And that appears to be exactly what he plans on doing.

One of the main reasons Majok declared is because, essentially, he has nothing to lose by doing so. Starting next year, college players must decide by May 8 whether they are staying in the draft. That gives players a much shorter window to work out for teams than the current mid-June deadline.

With that in mind, it behooves players to test the waters this year, and many are doing just that – Villanova's Scottie Reynolds, UCLA's Jrue Holiday, St. Mary's Patty Mills and Maryland's Greivis Vasquez are among other high-profile players who have made themselves available for the draft without hiring an agent. It's not known whether Hasheem Thabeet, a UConn junior, has hired an agent yet, but as a likely top-five draft pick, he has no intention of returning to school.

Players only have one opportunity to test the waters, however, so the next time Majok declares for the draft he won't have the chance to return to school.

Although Majok is a skilled power forward who looked good in practice with UConn this season, it's highly doubtful an NBA team would risk a draft pick on him. Instead, he'll almost certainly decide over the next month or so that he'll stay at UConn. As long as he earns a certain amount of college credits by the end of next fall's semester (and assuming there are no further issues with the NCAA, in light of potential recruiting violations uncovered last month by Yahoo!), Majok should be sporting No. 5 for UConn next December.

Majok to Enter Draft, Not Hire Agent

Here's the press release from UConn. More to come ...

University of Connecticut freshman basketball player Ater Majok will enter the 2009 NBA Draft but will not hire an agent, it was announced Thursday.

“After meeting with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to enter the NBA Draft,” said Majok. “I feel it will help me to test the process and get feedback on my strengths and weaknesses. It will allow me to get a better idea of what areas in my game need improvement and make me a better player in the future. I will not be hiring an agent and I enter this process with the full intention of assessing my abilities and returning to Connecticut in 2009-10.”

“In view of the upcoming rule changes for underclassmen, this is an opportunity for Ater to see where he currently fits into what I believe will be a future in professional basketball,” said UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. “I respect that Ater understands that this decision is about more than just him and that he has, and will continue to, involve his immediate family in this process as it goes forward.”

The NCAA legislative panel voted Monday on a decision that would make underclassmen decide by May 8 whether they are staying in the draft. The current deadline is ten days before the draft in mid-June. This rule, when ratified by the NCAA Board of Directors, will go into effect for next year's draft class.

Ater Majok (pronounced Ah-TARE Mah-jook) joined the UConn roster in the second semester of the 2008-09 season and will become eligible for action at the conclusion of the Fall semester in 2009 and have freshman eligibility. Majok is a 6-10, 233 lb. forward.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

UConn-UK at MSG

Back from vacation in the Carribbean ... very nice. Would recommend Grand Cayman for anyone (though the restaurants, etc., are pretty expensive). Off to see Bruce Springsteen tonight.

As many of you probably already know, UConn will face Kentucky as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden. This will be the second time in three seasons that Jim Calhoun and John Calipari square off at MSG; in November, 2007, UConn lost to Calipari's Memphis Tigers.

Anyway, UConn-Kentucky will be part of a doubleheader that night. In the "jayvee" game, Georgia takes on St. John's (ESPN2). The UConn-UK game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Other matchups in the event, on Dec. 10 at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.: DePaul-Mississippi State on ESPN2, followed by Syracuse vs. Florida on ESPN.

Game times for all four matchups will be announced at a later date.

Six of the eight participating teams reached the postseason in 2008-09, with Connecticut, Mississippi State and Syracuse playing in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange made it to the Sweet Sixteen, while the Huskies advanced to the Final Four. Florida and Kentucky played in the NIT, while St. John’s played in the College Basketball Invitational.

Teams invited to participate in the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational are chosen by ESPN in consultation with the conferences and are based on geographic and competitive criteria.

The BIG EAST holds a 5-3 record in the first two years of the SEC/BIG EAST Invitational.
The two conferences have combined to produce four of the last seven NCAA Men's Basketball Champions (Florida - 2007 and 2006; Connecticut - 2004; Syracuse - 2003) and seven of the last 14 national champions (Connecticut - 1999; Kentucky - 1998 and 1996).

Tickets for the 2009 SEC/BIG EAST Invitational are expected to go on sale in early summer. For more information, visit the official Web site: