V.J. Beachem may have played his final game at Notre Dame but probably hasn’t.
On Tuesday, the school announced that the junior forward – whose game exploded during the ACC and NCAA tournaments – had declared for the NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent. That means Beachem can go through the NBA’s evaluation process but still return to school, where he’d be Notre Dame’s top player and a surefire captain next season.
“I really pushed for V.J. to take advantage of the new rules to get a better understanding of his future in professional basketball,” said Mike Brey in a statement.
“He finished the season on an outstanding run and the ability to go through this process will be another step forward in his confidence as a player and as a leader in our program. This can really set him up for a great finish to his college career or provide him the opportunity to play the game at its highest level.”
The NBA’s revamped draft rules will let Beachem wait on an NBA combine invite, which will be announced in early May. The combine will be staged in Chicago on May 10-15. At that point Beachem will have until May 25 to make a final decision. The rule changes also allow Beachem to have singular workouts with NBA teams.
If Beachem leaves he’d be the second early draft departure from Notre Dame’s basketball program this off-season, following Demetrius Jackson. The former Irish point guard will sign with an agent and won’t return. Jackson is the first early departure from Notre Dame for the NBA since Troy Murphy.
Beachem is more likely to follow in the footsteps of Torin Francis, who declared for the NBA Draft after his junior year but ultimately returned to school.
“After our run in the tournament coach Brey brought up the idea of entering my name in the NBA Draft process and after talking with my family, I am excited about this opportunity.” Beachem said in a statement.
“The process will allow me to push my development to another level and get a better idea of what the organizations in the NBA think of my abilities on the court at this point in my career.”
Beachem averaged 12.0 points per game last season and shot 44.4 percent from three-point range, but he finished on a tear in March. In six postseason games – including two against North Carolina – Beachem averaged 16.7 points per game and made 19-of-35 three-pointers (54.3 percent).
The potential loss of Beachem, while unexpected, would be massive for Notre Dame with Jackson and Zach Auguste already out the door. Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson return, but the rest of the rotation would be filled with some combination of Rex Pflueger, Matt Ryan, Matt Farrell and Martinas Geben before getting to the freshman class and Elijah Burns, the rising sophomore forward who took a red shirt last season.
With Beachem, the Irish would have another “big three” leading the squad with Vasturia and Colson. Now Notre Dame must wait another month before finding out if that will happen.