TIREY: Morris leaning toward staying in the draft

Randolph Morris surprised many in Chicago on Tuesday by not showing up for the NBA pre-draft camp on the campus of the Moody Bible Institute. Many of the NBA scouts and personnel people I talked to were surprised by the decision to come out, and doubly surprised by the decision to not show up. But Morris did not disappoint for long. Word quickly spread that he would be giving a private individual workout for the NBA personnel in attendance at a health club in downtown Chicago.

Randolph Morris surprised many in Chicago on Tuesday by not showing up for the NBA pre-draft camp on the campus of the Moody Bible Institute. Many of the NBA scouts and personnel people I talked to were surprised by the decision to come out, and doubly surprised by the decision to not show up.

Morris did not disappoint for long. Word quickly spread that he would be giving a private individual workout for the NBA personnel in attendance at a health club in downtown Chicago.

What better way to impress NBA scouts than to workout where all of them are gathered anyway, and do it under your own controlled circumstances, instead of having to battle 60 other guys who are trying to impress the NBA brass as well.

Randolph's father, Ralph, has been handling all the affairs in Randolph's bid to make the first round of the NBA, the only stipulation he has stated he would need to keep his name in the draft, June 28. Before I get to the crux of the conversation with Mr. Morris, the conversations I had with many of the personnel guys from the NBA earlier in the afternoon, had me thinking one of two things was going on. Either the NBA guys are genuinely as perplexed about Randolph's decision and comments so far as you and I are, or they are playing a great version of the classic game of trying not to tip your hand to your fellow scouts. Their comments include: "Great 16-17 foot outside shot for a big man"
"Questions about mobility"
"Plays below the rim sometimes"
"Rebounding concerns"
"Size is conducive to NBA post play"

Ralph Morris shared some revelations is his comments to the media before the workout, as to how the whole process works. "The process is going well," said the elder Morris. "We're looking to see if he is going to be a first round draft pick."

Morris stated that the chances are good that his son will stay in the draft, although they're still undecided.

Getting the real skinny on Randolph's chances has proven to be a test. "Everybody's been kind of close-mouthed. They're not saying one way or the other. But, my gut feeling is that he is [a first round pick]. I'm not sure, though. Naturally, they [the NBA scouts] don't want to commit right now. I think everybody wants to see him before they decide what they want to do. We're just scouting information, basically."

This process for the Morris' may have actually started out as just testing the waters. But as they went along, someone gave them information they liked. "It was exploratory initially, for the most part. We just wanted to see where he would fall. If it was to our liking, then yes, we would go, he would go. Right now, it's hard to get a read. So we are keeping our options open."

Last week, Randolph had his first workout with an NBA team in Memphis for the Grizzlies. I asked Ralph if that they received much constructive criticism from the Memphis staff. "They were very positive about the workout. They liked him. They just are not going to commit to anything right now. They're not going to show their hand until they are ready. All they said was that he was a nice NBA type player."

Since I had access, I figured I would ask the question that I wondered, and the NBA types at the pre-draft camp had asked me if I knew, and that was why Randolph didn't participate at the camp.

"This is our strategy, just to show him to the teams. I don't think it would have benefited us to play, because I think he's thought well enough of, where he didn't have to show what he could do against those other guys. We're scheduling private workouts with other teams as well. Hopefully, this workout will lead us to other teams, and will call out teams that are not really interested, and allow us to just focus on the ones who are."

One of the perks of Randolph's dad's job helps the family out in this expensive fact finding mission. Since Randolph is leaving open the option of returning to school, he has to fund all the expense himself. Ralph's job with Delta Airlines allows them to fly free, virtually cutting the largest expense of traveling by almost 75%. "We got to dig deep. It can be costly. Without a doubt."

You would think one of the perks of being a Kentucky basketball player, is to use the wide NBA contact network of head coach Tubby Smith. Oddly enough, the Morrises have decided not to use Tubby's help.

"I have talked to him once. He said he would gather some information, and I haven't talked to him since." The only time Randolph has had any communication with his coach was when he faxed Tubby his intentions about a week after leaving the school when the semester ended.

These events would lead one to believe that the relationship between Tubby and Randolph and his family might not be very rosy. Is Mr. Morris upset with how Randolph was used this past season at UK? "Well,…no comment on that at this point in time. I don't want to say right now. But if he did go back to school, it would probably be to Kentucky."

The rumors have been flying for the past week or so, that Ralph Morris had signed his son with an agent, thereby ending his college eligibility. Mr. Morris was quick to say that they had not signed with an agent, only interviewed them to get their thoughts on Randolph's chances. "Agents try to sell you. But for the most part, the ones that I have talked to, they have been straight forward and above board. They have been the power agents. They give you some good information. We have talked to them and the NBA people, and there are several teams that are interested, that want us to come in and work out. We have some scheduled for next week."

After the workout, Randolph sounded nothing like someone who was planning on returning to school. The first mention was the future workouts he had planned next week. "We're trying to get one with Toronto finalized," said the younger Morris. "We had the one with Memphis. We got one coming up with the Knicks. We'll get a couple more looks. I got to get a couple more workouts under my belt, and then we'll probably decide." While he feels he learned some things at Kentucky, Randolph doesn't feel that he owes the school anything. "I think Kentucky was a positive thing for me." (Notice the past tense.) "I learned how to carry myself, how to react to the fans, and my basketball IQ shot up a couple of points with what I learned from Coach Hobbs and Coach Smith and the rest of the coaching staff. So I got a lot out of it." (Again, the past tense.) "In a year, I could be better. But anywhere I could get better. I could get better with an NBA team next year. So regardless of where I go, I can get better." (Ouch!)

Several times he alluded to his dream of playing professional basketball. "The NBA has been in my dreams for a long, long time. The sooner I get there, the better. Right now, I feel I am a first round pick. With some of the feedback I've been getting, I think I'm mid first round to late first round. Anywhere I get, I'll be happy with it. I'm not really 50/50 right now, I'd say I'm leaning toward turning pro right now." (Double ouch!)

I asked Randolph if he was happy with the way Tubby used him this season. His answer left little doubt that the Morris clan thought more could have been done with Randolph. "I think I could have done a little bit more, but I can't really complain. He gave me a good situation, exposure, and playing time. I can't really ask for much more."

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