Speights Still Getting Information

It's been more than a month since Gator basketball player Marreese Speights put his name into the NBA draft pool, but it's still almost a month until the deadline to pull his name out and return to Florida for his junior season.

Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan has been trying to get information from NBA sources so that Marreese Speights can make the most informed decision possible.

"The thing that's hard about all this is the length of time that goes on," Donovan said. "I think one of the things the NBA needs to look at along with the NCAA is giving these kids an opportunity a lot earlier to make some educated decisions. Marreese is not allowed to work out for any NBA teams until the Orlando pre-draft camp which is at the end of May. So your not talking about Marreese going into a situation where he can workout with a team and get some feedback. Now he's working out and trying to keep himself in shape and everything you see or read is just speculation. I feel like my responsibility in this is to try and gather as much information as I can for Marreese to try and help him make an educated decision. But ultimately the decision will come down to him and his family and what they feel is best."

I asked Donovan how significant it is that this year's incoming freshman class is nowhere near as talented as last year's. Thus, players returning to school have much more to gain than usual.

"They have a two year contract and the third year is the option of the team. Sometimes, when you don't get an opportunity to play significant minutes it can be a very quick visit to the NBA and then you're out. The other thing, now with the way the NBA rules are set up there's an affiliation with the D-league so the team has the authority to take a young player and put him in the D-league. They also have the ability to have 15 players on an active roster and only 12 can actively play in a game. So you could get into a situation where you're inactive most of the year, and what happens is your two years go by very quickly."

Donovan said he is trying to get Speights to look beyond this year's draft in determining the right move for his long term future.

"The thing that I've tried to get across to Marreese is this; what is the best situation for you to have a career in the NBA? Not a two year career, but have a career in the NBA. The higher of a draft pick you are the more of an opportunity there is that a teams going to be patient with you. When you start moving into the late first round or early second round what ends up happening is a team says, "you know what, that's the best we can do with that pick at the time and if doesn't work out it's not a real financial investment." Now when you start talking about Noah and Horford and Brewer, guys who were in that lottery there's going to be a lot more patience with their team because they were selected so high and the chances of them having a long career in the NBA is a lot better. What you want to be able to do as a young player in the NBA is get the opportunity to play."

During the season most draft previews listed Speights as a later lottery pick but recently what I've seen more often puts him in the last third of round one. If Speights performs and plays well in Orlando later this month, he might be able to solidify his status as a top 15 pick and if he does he should go. But if he can't be certain of doing any better than No. 22 or thereabouts, I believe he should return to UF and position himself as a potential top ten guy in what promises to be a much weaker draft in '09.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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