Diaz Preparing for NBA Draft

There are thoughts that maybe University of Miami shooting guard Guillermo Diaz waited a year too long to declare for the NBA Draft as his marvelous sophomore year was followed up with a junior year that simply didn't live up to expectations.

Clearly slowed by knee surgery between his sophomore and junior seasons, Guillermo Diaz struggled to get back to the form that made him so dynamic and explosive and a star in the making that left NBA scouts drooling over his unreal athleticism.

So there was no doubt when this season ended that Diaz was going to declare for the draft and not let the possibility of millions pass him by again as they did last year.

But it wasn't without a lot of thinking and soul searching that Diaz made the decision to turn pro because his time at the University of Miami has been more than memorable for the native of Carolina, Puerto Rico.

"Sometimes it was easy because I was already kind of prepared, but at the same time, I've never experienced it, so you know it was kind of tough at the same time because I was going to turn pro, but I had already decided what I was going to do early," Diaz said.

Even though he had some struggles this year with his explosiveness, Diaz was still able to dazzle crowds throughout the ACC with some incredible step back three-pointers and drives to the paint that made highlight real footage on ESPN.

A couple of unforgettable moments this year for Diaz came when he stroked a 24-footer over Florida State's Jason Rich at the shot clock buzzer that gave Miami a four-point lead with less than a minute to play, essentially sealing Miami's 84-78 overtime win in Tallahassee this season. He also hit a similar shot when he drilled a step back three in Chapel Hill that knocked North Carolina out late in the game with the shot clock winding down. It marked Miami's first win ever at the Dean Dome.

Shots like that earned Diaz, last season's Team MVP, the Mr. Clutch Award, given to the player that always seemed to come up with the big time shot in the big moments late in games. That was Diaz for the Hurricanes this year. It also earned Diaz 2nd Team All-ACC honors for the second consecutive year.

Diaz averaged a team leading 17.2 points per game while also grabbing 2.9 rebounds and dishing 2.9 assists. He played point guard a lot early in the season because of the broken foot that kept Anthony Harris out the first seven games. It showed another element to Diaz's game that people had not seen in the past and it will be a key for him in the draft as well.

Having lived his dream of playing college basketball in the United States, he now embarks on another dream that will likely give him the opportunity to take care of his family for the rest of his life, something he never could have envisioned before coming to the states.

"It was a great experience," Diaz said. "This always was a dream for me, playing in the United States in college. It was great for me and I appreciate everyone here that supported me and all that stuff. It was a great time."

However, Diaz has managed to stay grounded through all the hype as he takes on a grueling workout regiment over the next six weeks in Clearwater, Florida. He'll train with well-known trainer David Thorpe, who has trained numerous professional athletes.

"If you think about the draft a lot, you'll make yourself nervous and put pressure on yourself," Diaz said. "I just need to go to my workouts and work hard. If you work hard, it's going to pay off. You will get rewarded."

That experience alone for Diaz will be an eye opener as he'll train 10 to 12 hours a day six days a week, but the biggest key of the training will be to make sure that his knee is back in working order where he has the explosion he had as a sophomore and what he was starting to show flashes of late this season.

"I think my knee is better now and I just need to strengthen my quad and that's the easiest thing to do," Diaz said.

Added Art Alvarez, Diaz's former high school coach and mentor, "One of the things they want to do is straighten out that knee. They want to get it stronger and his knee is strong. I think you saw in the last four or five games of the season how he was getting it back. I think once he gets it back, I think it's really going to show his athleticism which is very important. We know that we got to get his athleticism back because that's what they love about him. They know he can put it on the floor. They know he can shoot, but they always loved his athleticism, and this year, I don't think he quite had his athleticism. Once he gets that back, then it's just a matter of climbing in the draft."

But even with questions about his knee, ESPN's Chad Ford still has Diaz going in the first round having projected him to go anywhere between 15th and 24th pick.

Regardless of where Diaz goes in the draft though, he is a player that Miami will sorely miss as players with his ability don't come along very often and UM coach Frank Haith recognizes that.

"You can't replace a Guillermo Diaz," Haith said. "He's been an exciting player to watch and it's been a joy to coach him over the last two years, but this is the kind of period for him where it's the end of his college career. I wish him nothing but the best and see nothing but positives for him."

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat covers Hurricane basketball for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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