UT's Lofton is pondering pros

Tennessee's All-America guard, the reigning Player of the Year in the SEC, is taking a look at jumping to the NBA. It appears to be more of a cursory glance than a serious investigation, however.

Chris Lofton, a rising senior from Maysville, Ky., has asked pro personnel directors for an evaluation of where he might be picked if he opted to bypass his senior season with the Vols.

"I think you always owe it to yourself to see," Lofton told The Tennessean.

The deadline to declare for the NBA Draft is April 29.

The odds of Lofton skipping his final year of collegiate eligibility appear to be slim and none. Standing 6-2 (on a good day), he is shorter than most NBA shooting guards. He also is a step slower than pro teams prefer.

What Lofton lacks in stature and speed, however, he offsets with brilliant outside shooting. He led the SEC in scoring at 20.8 points per game last season. He hit nearly 48 percent of his shots, including just under 42 percent from 3-point range.

Lofton scored a career-high 35 points against Texas on Dec. 23 and also posted eye-popping numbers against Memphis (34), Western Kentucky (32), Louisiana-Lafayette (31) and Fordham (30). He missed four games in late January due to a severe ankle sprain and was not the same player when he returned. Still, he hung 31 points on Arkansas in a Feb. 24 road win.

Given his lack of ideal size, ideal speed and the fact he's coming off a significant injury, Lofton's chances of being a first-round NBA pick appear remote. Most draft analysts project him as a late second-rounder or a free agent.

"Realistically, I don't think it's going to happen this year," he told The Tennessean. "It's a loaded draft, and I know that. The only way I'd come out is if they told me I was going to be solidly in the first round, but I don't expect that."

Lofton could raise his draft stock considerably with a big senior year, especially if he proves himself capable of playing some point guard. He's planning to work on his ball-handling skills in an effort to add more versatility to his game.

Lofton has been resting his injured ankle ever since Tennessee lost to Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 three weeks ago. There is a chance the ankle could require surgery during the offseason.

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