Speights Waits

Marreese Speights is nearing the deadline to choose whether to return to Gainesville for another basketball season. By June 16, he will withdraw from the NBA Draft (and begin getting ready for his junior year as a Gator) or stay in (and hope to be rewarded for his self confidence by being someone's first round choice).

Thanks to a new NCAA rule, Speights will have a much better idea than previous Florida players did of where he stands with teams prior to making his choice. It continues to appear that choice will be to remain in the draft.

Speights has been busy touring the country and working out for various NBA franchises. Orlando, Phoenix and Cleveland are among the teams he's showcased his skills for already. He'll visit Seattle as well as numerous others this week while he weighs his final decision. The trips are made possible by a new NCAA rule which allows NBA teams to pay visiting players workout travel expenses instead of the prospects being responsible for their own costs.

One team that's being rumored to have special interest in Speights is Washington. The Wizards hold pick eighteen and have already had Speights in for a look. NBA franchises have occasionally promised a player they would select him at a specific spot and followed through. It's possible such a scenario could play out for Speights, with a team giving him the assurance of being in the first round as long as he commits to remaining in the draft. There have been no reports of that sort of deal being offered yet, but most of what's filtered out from workouts has indicated Speights is making positive impressions.

This is considered a strong crop of college talent. Unlike some years, there are multiple players who are considered legitimate candidates for the honor of being top pick. Speights has to decide whether being a mid to late first rounder this season is good enough to pass up the possibility of improving his stock for 2009's draft. With more experience and a weaker crop of college freshmen than this year's group, Speights could really move up. If he is being told he's a first round pick this year, the potential boost is probably not enough incentive to wait. First round picks will get a minimum of two guaranteed years on their contract, and there's no way to be sure what might happen next season should Speights stay.

The NBA draft is June 26. Since Speights previously put his chances of remaining in the draft at 70-30 percent in favor of leaving and has been getting decent feedback, what hasn't he gone ahead and made his departure official? The answer is the possibility of injury during workouts. You might remember the case of Illinois star Dee Brown, who looked to leave as a junior and then broke a bone in his foot at the NBA's Chicago pre-draft camp. Because he had not signed with an agent, Brown was able to return for his final season. Barring a similar episode for Speights, expect him to sign with an agent early next week.

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