Changing Gears

The Kevin Pittsnogle story took another interesting twist when word broke that he had declared himself eligible for the NBA draft.

A mere two days before Pittsnogle faxed a letter of his intentions to the NBA office in New York City, he told a group of reporters that he was not going to declare for the draft. However, about 48 hours later, after at least one meeting with head coach John Beilein, he apparently changed his mind.

"I was really unsure," said Pittsnogle of the Sunday comments. "I didn't really give a straightforward answer. I decided it's the best opportunity for me to try this out."

Whatever the intentions were, the fact is that Pittsnogle is now an entrant into the draft. He has until June 21, seven days before the draft, to remove his name - otherwise, his collegiate days are over.

Head coach John Beilein, who professed to not being surprised at the decision, said all the right things in supporting the junior sharpshooter.

"I am behind him 100% while he tests these waters," Beilein noted Tuesday evening. "He has the chance to play for money some day, and we will help advise him the best we can. We have contacted the NBA, and they will give us an idea of where he could be drafted."

Despite those words, however, it was obvious that the decision was something of a shock to the Mountaineer coach. Beilein said that he first time Pittsnogle had approached him about declaring was earlier on Tuesday. Therefore, he and the WVU staff didn't have the chance to do any research with the NBA before Pittsnogle declared his intentions to the league.

"There is a process that you can go through, but we would have liked to have done it prior to this," Beilein confirmed. "I will do a lot of work for him in the weeks to come to let him know where he stands. Most times this [research] comes before the announcement, this time it is coming after."

If those words make it sound as if the Mountaineer coach is displeased with the sudden turn of events, that's in the eye of the beholder. However, it certainly puts the WVU coaching staff in the difficult position of preparing for the possible loss of two-thirds of their centers this summer.

Pittsnogle, for his part, notes that he will likely have to be a first round pick (where contracts are guaranteed) before he seriously considers leaving college early.

"I think I am coming back, but if I am guaranteed in the the first round, it would be a tough decision. If not, I am pretty sure I am coming back," said the Martinsburg, W. Va. native. "I think it was good timing for me to test the waters and see how I measure up against the upper echelon of players. I think it's a good decision for me, and will help me in the long run. It will let me know what I have to do to make the NBA, and then work on those things. It could also allow me to help the team next year. It's a chance to prove yourself against some of the top guys from high school, and college as well as the Eurpoean guys."

Asked whether or not he believed that a part-time starter was NBA first-round material, Pittsnogle again responded with the "testing the waters" theorem.

"I am really not sure if I am a first-round NBA pick," he admitted. "I think I have talent and I think I can play, so that's why I want to go to these camps."

One of the camps on his mind is the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago, an invitation-only camp tht is limited to 72 players. Pittsnogle hopes to be invited there, but will not know for sure until he hears from the league in the next couple of weeks.

Pittsnogle said he has talked with his family and with Beilein, whom he called "my advisor right now" and also planned to speak with other players who have gone through the process, but returned to college. One of those is Providence's Ryan Gomes, who entered the draft last year, but removed his name and returned to the Friar campus for his senior season. He also said he had spoken to his teammates.

"I have told all my teammates," Pittsnogle said. "They are supporting me and am happy for me."

Beilein also tried to put a happy face on the turn of events.

"This is a win-win situation. I can't blame him. If he [is a frist-round pick], then great, but if not, he comes back to a great team with great teammates. This is the first junior I have had to do this, so I will talk with a lot of other people about it. We have a lot of great connections within the NBA. Minutes after he expressed this desire, we began working through it."

While some coaches might be pulling their hair out publicly, Beilein remained philosophical.

"This is what makes coaching so interesting, but we will just work through it like any other event."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories