Thad Matta may not be a fan of Three Dog Night, but right about now, it's possible he can relate to at least one of their songs.
The song "One," a 1970's classic by the famous band, proclaims the number to be the loneliest. For Matta, one-and-done players are making him quite lonely.
And it looks like he can add a fourth in two years to the list.
Sources close to the situation tell Buckeye Sports Bulletin that sometime next week, 7-1 freshman Kosta Koufos intends to declare for the NBA draft. The deadline for collegiate players to toss their names into the NBA hat is next Sunday, April 27.
"It looks like he's gone," one source declared. "Whether it's the middle of the first round of the draft or going overseas to play in Greece, he has a lot of money on the table."
Though it's believed Koufos will make his name available for the draft, he won't necessarily be seen in an NBA arena near you next season. He currently holds an offer to play professionally in Greece for just under $5 million a year – probably better than he would get from his first NBA contract if he were drafted this season.
Currently, Koufos' mother Katerina is going through the interview process of potential representation. The purpose is to find an agent that could guide them through the pre-draft process and go over specific options available to them. The idea would likely be to avoid signing anything at this time that would eliminate his amateur status, leaving a return to college still possible, but have an agent picked out to give advice and offer insight.
Mike Conley Sr., the father of Ohio State's freshman point guard last season might be the odds-on favorite to represent Koufos at this time if anything were signed. Just this past summer, Conley became a certified sports agent – representing his son, Greg Oden and Daequan Cook among many others.
By declaring for the NBA, Koufos would be able to go through all the pre-draft workouts to better gauge his possible draft status. He would have until June 16, 10 days before the draft, to withdraw his name. At that point, he could elect to return to Ohio State or sign professionally in Greece for a year or more before ultimately returning at some point to pursue his NBA aspirations.
Though sources left the door cracked just a bit for Koufos to withdraw his name later, pass up the opportunity to play in Greece again like he did last summer and return for one more season at Ohio State, it seems unlikely he won't first hold a press conference in Canton next week to declare for the NBA.
"I think early in the year he was a little unhappy with his role at Ohio State," one source said. "But now I think it's just a matter of his playing better and feeling like he's more ready to compete at the next level."
After starting the season like gangbusters, Koufos slumped for a long period of time during the middle of the schedule. He often pressed harder, almost feeling he needed to showcase his talents, causing a lot of forced shots and careless turnovers.
But toward the end of the season, the 7-footer relaxed, as did his teammates, en route to an N.I.T. Championship. Koufos wound up averaging 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The late success was a catch-22. On one hand, the OSU team began to have fun and did better as a team but on the other hand Koufos enjoyed more personal success – perhaps further tempting him to test the NBA waters.
For Ohio State, regardless of whether Koufos ultimately returns for another season or not, the biggest key is keeping him in school.
With Ohio State floundering in the new APR system for college athletics, the Buckeyes, who are already in line to lose one scholarship due to low scores, cannot afford another "0-for-2" player.
Each scholarship player on each team is awarded a possible of two points – one for returning to school the next semester or quarter of eligibility and one for remaining in good academic standing when doing so. Being 0-for-2 means a player leaves school, either for the NBA or other reasons and was either flunking or dropped out when leaving.
Say there are 10 scholarship players on a roster at a school that is on the semester system. That's two points per player for each semester – meaning 40 possible points (20 per semester). If two players leave for the NBA at the end of the season, and one withdrew from school in the process, that's one 0-for-2 player and one 1-for-2 player. That gives you 37 of the possible 40 points for the year.
Divide 37 by the possible 40 giving you .925 and multiply that by 1,000 and you get 925 – which becomes that program's APR score for basketball. As coincidence would have it, 925 is the minimum passing score allowed to avoid being at risk for penalties.
With three players declaring from Ohio State last season for the NBA, and Oden leaving school because of his hectic schedule, the Buckeyes have dipped below the minimum APR (averaged over any four-year period). Koufos has reportedly been counseled about this dynamic, emphasizing the importance of his remaining in school if he decides to leave for the NBA draft.
Sources add that Koufos could still return to Ohio State, though at this juncture, that seems like the least likely option being discussed. He has already met with Matta on a few occasions and continues to go through due process to reach an educated decision.
However, sources say it's a very good bet he will at least test the NBA waters – leaving Matta to his least favorite number.