With summer's arrival for the Gonzaga community, our blog will hit a new phase which is what we really began writing about when we started around a year ago. During the summer months, exciting developments happen with Gonzaga athletes from the past, present, and future. If you followed our blog during The Kennel Report days, you know that we are enthralled with recruiting and we plan on covering every inch of it as it pertains to Gonzaga. The AAU will be in full force during the summer and a number of Gonzaga prospects will be taking part in tournies across the country. What makes this summer so interesting, however, is that Gonzaga has four former (and maybe still current) players vying for a job with the NBA or other professional basketball organizations across the globe. Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo, and Micah Downs are all graduates from Gonzaga University and their goal now is to hear their name called in the NBA Draft on June 25th. Sophomore Austin Daye's process is a bit different because he has the option to return to school for another year of college play. While he may project the highest out of the four Gonzaga players in the draft, he must be sure that he is ready for the NBA or he will assuredly be labeled what every college player dreads...a bust.
After the jump is a brief overview of the four players looking for a job in the NBA and where we think they project.
Austin Daye: Let's take the first look at the youngster who seems to have Gonzaga fans in a tizzy over his decision to test the waters early. When Daye decided to announce his intention to take a look at the draft process, everyone said it was a mistake and that he would be back at Gonzaga for his junior season. After a few weeks to let everything settle and shake out, people have begun to realize why Austin thinks he can be an NBA player. He's got exceptional length, rebounding capability, and can play inside and out. Sure he has knocks about his strength and about his attitude on the court but there is no doubt that Daye has all the ability to play the game at the next level. With that being said, their seems to be a shift in common thought regarding Daye. Looking at the back end of the first round, it is pretty clear to see Daye fitting in anywhere from 15 to the end of the first round andI think he will be much closer to 15 than to the second round. Teams like the Detroit Pistons at pick no. 15 have shown some interest in Daye and there are some other options in the back half of the first round like the Jazz or maybe every someone like the Hornets who are a bit hamstrung with their current 'bigs' situation.
Projection: I could go back and forth on this one and it really depends on what day you catch me on but at this point, I think it makes sense for Daye to stay in the draft. I truly belive he will be a nice addition to an already good team in the back half of the first round and develop into a nice NBA player. You can doubt his attitude and his consistency but you can't doubt the natural ability he has and I think he is too good to not be in the first round.
Jeremy Pargo: As all Gonzaga fans know, Jeremy tested the waters last summer only to return for his senior season and lead the Zags to a Sweet Sixteen. It wasn't a picture perfect season for Pargo as he was questioned continually throughout the season. NBA Scouts largely agreed that he had to show more dedication to distribution of the basketball rather than playmaking and that showed early on in the year. Jeremy was passing up sure opportunities to drive and create his own points so that he could try and boosts his assists. People began to question his dedication to his team but that all went away as the year went on and he began to show the reasons why we fell in love with him three years ago. While he still had great assist numbers, he was able to drive into the lane and create the way he used to and it really paid great dividends in WCC play and all the way into the NCAA Tournament. Jeremy finds himself working out for the NBA Draft again and he is projected in a similar way this season. With star guards like Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn entering the draft, Jeremy will have to fight to get drafted. He is working out for the Portland Trailblazers today and that should be one of many. He has a lot to gain by these workouts because he could squeeze his way into the draft. He has the physical ability and size to play in the league, it is just a question of whether or not the scouts see improvements in the areas they wanted him to work on.
Projection: It's going to be a tough road for Jeremy. Looking at some draft outlets, names like AJ Price, Toney Douglas, Grievis Vasquez, and Jerel McNeal all fill up the second round as far as guards go. While all four are good players, their is no a huge divide between them and Jeremy. If the workouts go well, he will get drafted. If not, expect him either to begin a career in the D-League or travel overseas with his brother Jannero for a very successful international career.
Josh Heytvelt: Every website a look at regarding Josh says the same thing. "If this was two years ago, Josh would be in everyone's lottery but since then he has declined." This is, in my opinion, and extraordinarily vague statement to make about a player that has made tremendous strides both on and off the court. Sure, the foot injuries took a little bit of athleticism from Josh but he makes up for it in a number of ways. He can be pretty deadly from the outside and is very versatile at a time when the NBA is starting to avoid the pure back to the basket guys for players that can play all over the court. He was an All-WCC selection and finished with a great senior season. More than anything, Josh is one of those players that GM's look at and salivate. Like Austin, he is extremely gifted in every imaginable way and his character has developed as much as his game. Josh has been ranked as a high as a high lottery draft pick early in his career to not even mentioned during the Cheney incident. He now projects on most draft boards in the second round. One thing that is great about Josh is that he will be very appealing to already-contending teams looking to boost their frontcourt with a high-risk, high-reward type of player and Josh is exactly that. He could develop into a very, very solid big man in this league and I think NBA scouts see that.
Projection: Like I said, Josh is one of those players that when the draft comes and the second round roll around, he will just be too appealing to pass up. The mid-second round is the likely destination for Mr. Heytvelt with a team that is one or two players away from contending in the playoffs. I really don't see any way Josh is not on an NBA roster when next season comes barring an unforseen injury.
Micah Downs: The Portsmouth Invitational was a nice step for Micah Downs to take as he seeks an NBA career. Sites like DraftExpress said that Downs was a player who really improved his draft stock by participating in the tournament and his physical ability really catches scouts eyes. We all know that Micah traveled a long road in college. From being a blue-chipper at Kansas to going to Gonzaga and seeing quite a bit of bench time his junior season. Micah came into his own late in his senior season and began showing the offensive skills that made him a McDonalds All-American in high school. He was the WCC Tournament most valuable player and was a major reason why Gonzaga made it to the sweet sixteen. He never meets a match up he doesn't like and he can play with athletic teams like Memphis and he can play with disciplined teams. His versatility and body type fits well into the NBA. Micah's greatest asset will be his defensive prowess. When Downs came to Gonzaga, no one expected him to leave as a defensive specialist but that is exactly what he did. At a slight 6'9'', Downs is very quick on his feet and dedicated himself to becoming a defensive stopper. He often drew the opposing teams best player and typically did an excellent job. As Downs works out for NBA teams, they will have to notice his athletic ability. He also shoots very well from beyond the arc which will attract some scouts. While the best case scenario for Downs is to be a Bruce Bowen type player, I don't think the comparison is too far-fetched (in the long run).
Projection: While I think it would be silly to say that Downs will assuredly be drafted, the good thing about these Gonzaga prospects is that they will all work out well. Downs will probably catch on with an NBA team after the draft and begin a D-League career or he could opt to play in Europe. I think it would be a tremendous disappointment if we did not get to see Downs in the league because he could provide teams with a lot of intangibles that many players don't focus on.
Disagree with a projection or think Austin is coming back? Let us know in the comments below!