VAUGHT: Rondo looks to Smith for NBA advice

Rajon Rondo looks to follow the paths of Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans as early NBA entrants. Rondo will rely upon Kentucky's Tubby Smith for good advice regarding his NBA prospects. In looking to Smith for advice Rondo plans to avoid the rocky path taken by Randolph Morris.

Don't think Rajon Rondo was trying to mislead anyone about his future at the University of Kentucky when he said after Sunday's season-ending loss to Connecticut that he "probably" would be back at Kentucky next year.

What do you think he was going to say when media members swarmed him 15 minutes after the disappointing loss and asked more questions about his future than the game? I thought he answered questions patiently and try to be as candid as he could without making it sound like he was more interested in the NBA than UK.

It's no surprise he's likely going to test the NBA draft. He can enter his name in the draft before April 28, take part in the predraft camp June 6-10 and then evaluate his future after that as long as he has not hired an agent. If he is assured of being a first-round draft pick, he should take the NBA money and have no second thoughts. But if he's not sure he'll go in the first round, he should take his name out of the draft and return to Kentucky.

Rondo said before the season started that he would seek coach Tubby Smith's advice on the matter. Recently he assured me that was still true — and I believed him — because he basically already knew testing his marketability was probably the right thing to do.

"He knows a lot about that level and has a lot of friends there. He can give me good advice about what I should or should not do," Rondo said of Smith. "Last year I knew I was not coming out, but I asked him what I needed to work on and he helped me. How can I get an advantage over other players across the country? That's what I want him to tell me again this year.

"I trust him. He won't steer me the wrong direction or give me bad advice. That is comforting to know because some coaches don't always have a player's best interest at heart."

Several mock drafts have Rondo as a mid-first round pick because NBA executives feel his quickness, length, ballhandling, rebounding and defense are superb and that they can improve his shot. Smith can use his NBA contacts to see how sincere NBA folks are in those beliefs and Rondo can strengthen his case with a strong showing at the predraft camp.

Smith has been torn about Rondo. Sometimes the player has frustrated the coach and Smith probably wishes he would leave. But Smith also knows another year at Kentucky could elevate Rondo's play and also make him a higher draft pick. That coach/father in Smith would like to have a chance to help Rondo reach that higher potential.

So just settle back and don't get excited. It's going to be close to three months before anyone will know exactly what Rondo will do. However, we should already know that he's going to do this process the right way because unlike Randolph Morris, Rondo will listen to Smith and that's a huge plus both for the player and Kentucky.


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