Chicago Not The Only Place To Be Seen
On the surface, that seems like a crazy number of players vying for what will be only 60 draft spots. It gets even crazier when you consider the NBA will only bring 70 players to the annual NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in mid-May.
While NBA teams are not restricted in how many players they evaluate for the draft, logistical problems arise in seeing all the possible players with such a deep Early Entry pool, not to mention all of the draft eligible Seniors that are automatically in the draft.
Jake Kelfer, the Combine Director of a new private invitational event, hopes to help solve some of the problem by creating his own Combine-style NBA exposure event at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The idea is simple. Invite NBA teams to a world class facility and give players who want an additional exposure point the right to compete in a two-day event designed to give them one more chance at getting NBA feedback before deciding to stay in the draft or hire an agent.
“The Professional Basketball Combine was created after I had attended a couple of [agent run] pro-days,” Kelfer told Basketball Insiders. “I thought to myself, ‘What if there was a way to combine more agencies?’
“Then I also took a look from the players and said ‘What if there was a way to get more players that need a second look and give them an opportunity?’ And then I also thought about underclassmen. The way the rules are, the underclassmen only have ten days to decide from the end of the combine to the decision of whether or not they’re going to withdraw from the draft. Unfortunately, a lot of kids are put into a really high-pressure situation, probably one of the biggest decisions of their life.”
The NCAA requires early entry players to make a decision on the draft no later than May 24, so getting feedback quickly is important to that process.
“We’re hoping to give these underclassmen and draft eligible prospects an opportunity to be seen again,” Kelfer said understanding the value of the NBA run Combine. “The [NBA] Combine is fantastic and the NBA combine does a great job of really helping players raise their draft stock. However, with the amount of players that can declare for the draft now, whether they’re testing the waters or they’re signed with an agent, I thought that there should be another opportunity for players that needed to be seen in one location.”
Last year, IMG hosted more than 20 teams in an agency run Pro-Day that sort of set the stage of the Professional Basketball Combine Kefer and his staff have put together.
“The reason I decided to try and utilize IMG is because I’ve been to an event in the past at IMG and I just fell in love with the campus,” Kelfer said. “They have incredible facilities and incredible staff, it’s a great opportunity for the players because the players are going to be able to receive top of the line treatment, the housing, the meals, everything is just top of the line with IMG. To be able to work with the guys over there, it’s just been a privilege, and I look forward to seeing what we’re going to be able to create this year and in years to come.”
Kefer understands that some agencies want to run their own events and may not have an interest in the Professional Basketball Combine, but the goal isn’t to compete with those events.
“We’re not trying to compete with other agencies,” Kelfer said. “What we are trying to do is give players an opportunity. Give players an opportunity that are really trying to show NBA teams why they deserve to be in the NBA…. There are plenty of players out there that are always searching for additional exposure and our idea in creating this event was to find a way to give players additional exposure to as many teams as possible, especially in the allocated time frame that they have.”
Kelfer and his team have been working on this project for almost a year and have been reaching out to players and teams to field what looks to be an interesting event.
“Feedback has been fantastic up to this point,” Kelfer said. “A lot of people have found that there is a need for an event like this, especially with the way the pre-draft process is for the amount of players that have been declaring over the last couple years.
“In terms of the players committed, we’re hoping to have 24 players when the event is all said and done. We’re anticipating players to commit once the NBA combine invites go out. We’re anticipating some players who don’t get invited to the combine to end up coming to our event.
“In terms of the team interest and the feedback, a lot of the teams that we’ve spoken to are really excited about the opportunity and results are going to come down to the quality of players that we’re going to have at the event. Based off what we have and what I can say at this point in time, we’re going to be having a lot of guys that are going to be competing for a draft spot in this upcoming draft.”
Jaylen Johnson from Louisville, Austin Nichols from Virginia, Katin Reinhardt from Marquette, Jeremy Morgan from Northern Iowa and JJ Frazier from Georgia are some of the early commitments, with more expected this week as NBA Draft Combine invites go out.
The Professional Draft Combine will get underway May 15 and run through 17, with two full-day sessions help on the campus at IMG.
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