Roger Powell's Draft Decision: What Could it Mean?

The biggest shock for Illini fans when they read the official NBA Draft list was reading the name Roger Powell. It was widely assumed the third person Bruce Weber submitted a letter to the NBA inquiring about their potential draft status was Powell, but no one assumed that Powell would be taking that extra step and placing his name in the draft. It also appears fans were not the only ones surprised by Powell's declaring for the draft; his coach Bruce Weber was also unaware of Powell's plan.

In the grand scheme of things, Roger declaring for the draft will have no effect on next season, because he will be back in Champaign and pull his name from the draft. In fact there is no harm at all for any junior within driving distance of the Chicago pre-draft camps to not declare for the NBA Draft. All players are allowed to make themselves eligible for the NBA Draft and pull their name out once and still retain their eligibility for college basketball. Considering after their senior seasons, players do not have to worry about losing NCAA eligibility, declaring for the NBA Draft as a junior causes no harm to your eligibility or your team. In June, Roger will be showcasing his talents in front of NBA scouts hoping to get his name out there as an NBA-caliber player.

One of the possible reasons that I can think of for Roger making this move could be the possibility that he feels he is being overshadowed by Illinois' trio of guards (Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron) when it comes to the press attention he receives. Roger has consistently been among the leading scorers for Illinois, and a solid contributor, but when the media, especially at the national level, discusses Illinois and the accomplishments of the team, they always heap the praises upon Dee and Deron, and leave out the contributions of Roger. The one exception on the national level would have to be Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis who named Roger to his All-Glue Guy Team. When Seth named Roger to his All-Glue Guy Team, he made a special mention to Roger being Illinois' leading scorer at the time, which was an anomaly for a player that was considered one of the best "glue guys" in the nation.

The reason this move should be looked at with a keen eye by fans of the Fighting Illini is for one key reason: Bruce Weber did not know Roger was making himself eligible for the draft. For Illinois to succeed at the highest level next season, a communication gap between the players and the coaches cannot exist. Early last season, the Illini struggled as a team when the coaches and the players were not on the same page. The lack of communication between Powell and Weber on this specific issue, no matter where you decide to lay the blame, is not a good sign for the Illini's communication as a team. If Roger and Bruce are on two different pages now, who is to say they can reconcile their positions before the beginning of next season?

Roger Powell is a key component to Illinois' team next season, and if he and Coach Weber continue to be thinking about two different things and goals, the team as a whole will struggle. If the Illini struggle to compete on the level of a Top Ten in the national rankings, the bad press will rain down from both the national and local media. When a player is looking to get to the NBA, the last thing they want is for their team to struggle because all the mentions about them in the media will end up being negative. Since I think it is safe to assume based on his actions of this spring, Roger's goal is to be an NBA basketball player, he would be best served by ensuring he and Bruce Weber get back on the same page as soon as possible because if Roger is thinking something different and playing with a different goal in mind than the rest of the team, all he will do is hurt his draft stock (which I believe is nearly non-existent right now).

After the pre-draft camp, I fully expect Roger to pull his name from the draft, and return to Illinois. When that is complete if not before, I Roger and Bruce Weber need to sit down and hash out all the possible communication problems that existed between player and coach surrounding this issue and any other communications gaps that may have existed throughout last season. This is just one more thing Bruce Weber will need to put a strong focus on in this already busy off season in addition to his other duties including recruiting for the Class of 2005 and finding a new assistant coach.

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