Former Georgetown guard Jason Clark dribbled down the middle of the Wizards’ practice court Tuesday and delivered a pass to former Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine, who pulled up for a mid-range jumper. A Wizards assistant retrieved the rebound and passed to Clark, who started toward the other end as his running mate switched sides. Jardine pulled up for another jumper and the process was repeated, again and again and again.
Such is life for players such as Clark and Jardine, criss-crossing the country for team workouts in the final weeks before the NBA draft. The Wizards were the third and seventh stop, respectively, for Clark and Jardine, who were joined by Matt Gatens (Iowa), Bernard James (Florida State) and Darius Miller (Kentucky).
“I have eight more [workouts],” said Jardine, who as a fifth-year senor led Syracuse to the Elite Eight this year. “I just got in from Memphis last night and I’ve got Detroit tomorrow. You’re on the road a lot, living out of a suitcase, but I cherish this time because there’s nothing like it.”
That’s the proper attitude and really the only approach for players in his position, fighting for a shot to be drafted June 28. Perhaps one of them will be selected by the Wizards, who hold the third, 32nd and 46th picks. But none of them is a candidate for No. 3 overall, which would make life so much sweeter and easier. Instead, they’re forced to scratch and claw if they make it into the draft at all.
“The process is long, stressful and tiring,” said Clark, who as a senior led the Hoyas in scoring and steals last season. “But this is what you play basketball your whole life for. I’m going to just keep pushing and try to get a job.”
Clark already has worked out for Miami and San Antonio, with Chicago scheduled for Friday. For Miles, Kentucky’s standout senior, Tuesday meant three down and “six or seven to go. It’s going to be a busy two weeks for me,” he said.
The pace is much less frantic for Miles’ former teammates Anthony Davis, the consensus No. 1 pick, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, expected to go within the top five. Those freshman phenoms don’t have to hop on planes to visit a multitude of teams. Neither does Kansas junior Thomas Robinson, a projected top-five pick who will work out Wednesday for his hometown Wizards.
Most seniors rarely enjoy luxuries such as skipping the recently-concluded NBA Draft Combine and/or meeting with just a handful of teams at the top of the draft. They gladly participate in the combine if invited (Clark wasn’t), happily juggle their schedules for individual team workouts and reluctantly keep an eye on options overseas if all else fails.
The draft process gives players such as Clark and Jardine a double dose of shock therapy: They not only have lost their senior status and become subordinates of underclassmen, they must sell themselves to NBA teams harder than colleges sought their services not too long ago.
“Having schools and college coaches calling you, that was fun,” Clark said. “But it’s also fun trying to get on somebody’s [NBA] team. It’s always good when teams are calling your agent, wanting you to come in for a workout. In a way, it’s similar. But it’s definitely different because you’re trying to make their team whereas before they wanted you.”
Neither Clark nor Jardine are projected to be selected in most mock drafts. Miles could slip into the first round, but at least he’s expected to hear his name June 28. Less-fortunate players will pick over summer-league invitations, D-League consideration and international offers. The least-fortunate will save their sneakers for rec leagues and get on with their lives.
But, like Clark, they’ll hold on to their dreams until the very end. “I’m just going to work my tail off and try to get drafted,” he said.
He’ll try to impress the Bulls on Friday, a day after Jardine does likewise for the Pistons. Then the process will be repeated, again and again, until it’s time for something new.