On the Eve of the Draft Deadline

We are finally at the end of a spring-long watching and waiting period for Stanford basketball. Curtis Borchardt and Casey Jacobsen have just 24 hours remaining for their final decisions, and here are the likely scenarios and betting money on their imminent announcements...

Tomorrow marks the one-week point before the June 26 NBA draft, and also the deadline for underclassmen who have declared for the draft to pull out and retain their college eligibility.  Stanford had to sweat this June waiting game last year for really the first time, and finished with the bad news that Jason Collins would stay in the draft and finish his playing days at Stanford.  But Jason was only an underclassman by the technicality of remaining eligibility, since he had one and possibly two medical redshirt years remaining.  Still, the young man who was ironically known within the team at that time as "Shaq-Daddy" had finished his four years as a student at Stanford and had his degree in hand before draft day arrived.

The situation this year is the classic one that has faced schools like Arizona, Duke and Kansas for several years now, with true academic underclassmen hanging in the balance between a return to school or an early departure to the NBA.  Juniors Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt are still both in the draft at this date, and have until tomorrow to pull out their names if they wish to play this coming fall and winter at Stanford.  Curtis Borchardt has seen his stock continually rise since he first put his name in the hat, and there is a strong chance now that he could safely go in the top 10 picks in next week's draft.  Curtis has spent the spring as a full-time student at Stanford, which has allowed him to work with his teammates and coaches in the NCAA-allowed spring skills and conditioning workouts.  The difficulty for him has been the restrictions that come from the NCAA as a full-time student not scheduled to graduate this term - thus he has not been able to travel freely to off-site workouts with NBA teams.

In contrast, Casey Jacobsen has chosen not to be a full-time student at Stanford in the spring quarter, which has precluded him from any team skills workouts with the Stanford coaches, as well as strength and conditioning team work under strength coach John Murray.  He has instead paid his own way to work out with Murray, who has entertained several clients preparing for the NBA draft this spring.  Casey has been able to travel to NBA cities for workouts, unlike Curtis, but he has been very careful to pay for all his expenses every step of the way - to protect his collegiate eligibility.  Casey has been a borderline late first round/early second round draft pick since he first declared, though he has now garnered more assurances from teams late in the first round that they would like to take him with a first round pick.

The question Cardinalmaniacs have been asking throughout this process has very simply been: will they stay or will they go?  The answers should be finally known in the next 24 hours, but they are close to known already today.

Casey Jacobsen still has some risk of going in the second round of the NBA draft, where he receives no guaranteed contract, but his heartfelt desire to be in the NBA coupled with the interest and indications he has received from late first round teams has him all-but-a-lock to stay in the draft.  I would put the chances of his official and finalized departure at 95% today, with the 5% only tied to some unforeseen news revealed to him that could shake his confidence today.  He gave three great years to Stanford, and now looks to give himself to the professional ranks he has dreamed of for so long.

Curtis Borchardt has a far stronger draft position than Casey, but his probability lies ironically lower.  Again, he is a very solid top ten pick right now, with a highly likely home in New York with the #7 pick in the lottery, but I would put his chances at staying in the draft at 80%.  That is still a strong bet for him to move on the NBA with next Wednesday's draft, but there are a different set of intangibles tugging at Curtis to stay at Stanford not at work with Casey.  If in Casey's heart he would like to be in the League, Curtis' heart would prefer that he stay at Stanford.  The speculation about how he balances the decision relative to his darling fiance, sophomore Susan King of the women's basketball team, is a big part of the equation, but there is a greater pull for Curtis to finish of his full four-year undergraduate experience at Stanford.  His heart belongs at the Farm, and it is a battle with his rising draft stock that dizzies his head.  All conventional wisdom and prevailing thought says that Curtis can not possibly pass up a top ten draft position to come back for his senior year at Stanford, but that is precisely why there is as much as a 20% chance that he could surprise and stay.  That big grinning goof is also a very strong-headed individual who won't be told what he should do or what the conventional wisdom "mandates he do."  To additionally rationalize such a decision to return, there is a very serious school of thought right now that Curtis could come back and become a strong parallel with Tim Duncan.  His game possesses several similarities, and he would have a run at national Player of the Year awards his senior season en route to a top three draft position.  The gap Curtis could close between now and next June would come from additional strength and a focus on building a legitimate set of low-post moves with his back to the basket.  That gap is essentially moving Curtis up from his current high upside to realized and demonstrated NBA-ready elite abilities and skills.

The betting money overall says both juniors are gone, leaving just Julius Barnes as the sole true rising senior for this coming season.  There appears little-to-no chance of a Casey Jakes return, but Curtis remains enough of an honest mystery until the final words come from his mouth.

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