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CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa men’s basketball standout AJ Green had a lot of choices, a lot of “great” choices about his future.
He told The Gazette late Wednesday he will remain in the NBA Draft and, Thursday morning, said the decision — which came just ahead of the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline — offered some relief.
He already had entered the transfer portal and had options at Duke or Iowa State, as well as the NBA.
“Very exciting, for sure, to just know what I’m going to be doing moving forward. But, also some relief,” Green said Thursday. “It was a huge decision and a lot of time and thought went into it.
“Every choice I had was a great choice and it really just came down to me feeling like I’m ready, and ready to get this journey started as a pro.”
Green acknowledged he went back and forth between returning to college or turning pro as late as Wednesday, but the positive feedback he’s gotten from the eight NBA teams he’s worked out for — along with the support of family and friends — led to the decision he ultimately made.
“Pretty similar (feedback) along the lines of teams see me as somebody that can make shots, space the floor and play well off of other guys,” Green said. “And, that if I were to stay in (the draft) they said I’d have a chance and opportunities. So, that’s all I feel like I need is just opportunities — with my work, I trust it, and I’ll continue to trust it and I think I’ll be able to make something happen.”
Along with confirming his decision to keep his name in the NBA Draft, Green released the following statement on Wednesday:
“The past month has been a tremendous learning experience for me. Most notably, it indicates that my hard work is paying off, and I will continue to trust this moving forward. I believe at this time it is best for me to remain in the NBA Draft and begin my journey of playing professional basketball. I want to give a huge thank you to all of Panther Nation and everyone that’s supported me throughout my time at UNI.”
So far he’s worked out for the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks. He also was invited to the NBA G League Elite Camp last month.
The NBA Draft is June 23 and the Cedar Falls native is unsure how many more workouts he may have before then, but has made sure to relish the experience, including a surreal moment of a conversation with Nets head coach Steve Nash.
“At every place I go to I always try to take pictures of everything and take a step back to appreciate and realize that I have the opportunities to travel around and play basketball in all these amazing places with all these amazing organizations,” Green said. “I know there’s a million other people that would love to be in my shoes and there’s kids out there that have the same dream as me to be here one day.”
Whether he’s selected in the draft or signed as an undrafted free agent to a team’s G League roster, Green said seeing players like Jordan Poole from the Warriors and many others come up from the G League and become NBA regulars helped his decision.
When it comes to skeptics of his ability — particularly as it relates to playing at UNI and in the Missouri Valley Conference — Green pushed back.
“I think in general you can take the best teams in the Valley, year after year over the past few years, and you can take those teams against any Power-5 team and we’re going to give them a run for their money,” Green said. “So I really think it’s just about continuing to try and open eyes along the way.”
Green finishes his career at UNI as a two-time Missouri Valley Conference player of the year and MVC freshman of the year in 2018-19. He finished third on UNI’s all-time scoring list (1,769), second in career 3-point field goals made (266) and first in career free throw percentage (90 percent).
“Everything that goes into it — the fans and all the support from Cedar Falls and (those) supporting the Panthers, the teammates and the relationships that I’ve had here in Cedar Falls and developed with guys — that would be the biggest thing I’ll miss,” Green said. “I plan to keep those relationships and continue to build them. It’ll be different, but I feel like I’m ready for this next step.”