Pendergraph Enters Draft with Confidence

Jeff Pendergraph doesn't look at the plethora of mock NBA drafts that are flooding media outlets these days. He won't talk about those prognostications unless someone else initiates it in conversation. The former Sun Devil forward knows that he has showcased himself very well during his various workouts, and that he will be pleased when his name is called in the NBA draft on June 25th.

Since his season ended in mid-March, it has been a whirlwind of activity for the 6-9 245 Jeff Pendergraph. He worked out six days a week for nearly a month and half, ironically under outgoing University of Arizona head coach Russ Pennell, at the Arizona Premier Academy workout facility in Gilbert.

"It was fun sticking around town because everywhere I went people were asking me how I was doing and wishing me luck," Pendergraph commented. "It was very cool to see that even after the ASU season was over people were very interested in how I was doing.

"Having that support probably helped me a little with my preparations for the workouts I had."

Since the beginning of May the ex-Arizona State star has worked out for about a dozen of teams including the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets.

The forward, who was in Tempe at the time of our interview, will conclude his pre-draft workouts with the Cleveland Cavilers on Monday and the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday.

"It's been pretty tiring, but also exciting," said Pendergraph about pre-draft activities in the last several weeks. "If you're a top-10 guy you only have to go to a few workouts. Everybody else has to go to every team that invites you and there's a lot of travel. It's like going on a lot of job interviews, but it was fun."

During his various workouts Pendergraph went against heralded players such as Tyler Hansbrough and Dejuan Blair. He felt that he more than just held his own against those All-Americans.

"I feel that overall I did very well in my workouts," Pendergraph remarked. "Some workouts were better than others, but I felt very good about them and I got good feedback from teams."

This is why Pendergraph feels strongly that he will not slip into the second round, and could be selected as high as the low 20's in first round. "I wouldn't see it as a disappointment if I did go in the second round," he claimed. "Getting drafted is a positive and I'm going to build on that no matter where I'm selected."

Naturally, the forward would be elated with any team that chose him but like any prospect there are a few teams that perhaps stand out a bit above the others.

"I think playing for the Phoenix Suns would be real cool because I get to stay here and a lot of their fans are ASU fans too," Pendergraph stated. "I really like Portland, because I know coach Nate McMillan (father of ASU guard Jamelle McMillan), they have a good team and everything about that atmosphere is cool. I also like New Orleans because coach Byron Scott played for ASU and I really got along with him."

Pendergraph ended his ASU career as one of the most efficient and productive players in school history. In his four years in Tempe, he set school records for games played (126) and started (120) while his 1,588 career points (12.6 per game) are good for sixth on the school career list.

As the team's senior leader, he led the nation in field goal shooting at 66 percent and earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. In his last year at ASU, he helped the team post 25 wins for just the third time in school history and for the first time since 1974-75, and led his squad to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in 14 seasons.

"I'm probably shooting the ball better than I was in March," said Pendergraph about his current skill set. "I think a lot of teams were surprised about my offense when they saw it. I'm handling the ball very well too. My body has held up very well and I'm at 245 lbs right now."

It's not only his skills, particularly his ability to be physical down low, yet at the same time demonstrate agility and athleticism, that has impressed NBA front offices.

In the past, ASU head coach Herb Sendek called Pendergraph a great ambassador for the program. Pendergraph's intelligence (earned a Bachelor's in Economics in three and half years), high character, and strong work ethic has wowed those who scouted him and eventually met him personally on the workout circuit.

"Every place I've been at they (team executives) have talked a lot about my character and personality," Pendergraph noted. "I think things are changing right now, and teams care just as much about your character as they do about your game."

Pendergraph will be home in Southern California on Thursday's draft day with a limited number of relatives and close friends in attendance. All of his focus and energy has been consumed by preparing for this exciting day, but he hasn't thought about how he will react on that day when his name gets called by one of the 32 NBA teams.

On the same token, his pre-draft preparations have also prevented him from taking a little time to reflect on what he has accomplished with the maroon and gold as he helped reversed the fortunes of the basketball program.

"Right after the season ended I worked out right away getting ready for the draft," Pendergraph said. "Sometime later on I'll have more time to think about it. I think what I accomplished here is something I could probably appreciate better as more time goes by.

"Obviously I'm very proud about what I did here."

Starting Thursday Pendergraph will continue to do the Sun Devil nation proud, this time as a professional basketball player.


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