I won’t deny the press release informing us that Iowa sophomore guard Isaiah Moss had submitted the proper papers for early entry into the NBA Draft surprised me.
However, it shouldn’t have. Moss hasn’t hired an agent, which means he can return to the Hawkeyes as long as he decides to do so by May 30. That’s plenty of time to participate in enough individual team workouts to be told what his game needs to approach NBA-ready.
Moss averaged 11.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists, and made 42 percent of his field goal tries. He made 4 of 16 shots in the Big Ten tournament, averaging seven points over two games there. Players typically don’t directly go from those kinds of college numbers to a life in the NBA.
But here’s the deal: A whole lot of underclassmen become early-entries. Iowa sophomore Tyler Cook is one. So is Iowa State freshman guard Lindell Wigginton. Two years ago Hawkeyes senior-to-be Peter Jok dipped his toe in the waters, and pulled it back quickly.
Last year, 182 underclassmen were early-entries. Just 47 were drafted. Many didn’t hire an agent, and withdrew from the process in time to return to their college teams. Included were Moritz Wagner of Michigan and Purdue’s Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas.
By the way, the first senior picked in the 2017 Draft was Colorado’s Derrick White, with the 29th selection. This is why freshmen and sophomores check these things out when they do. Because the clock is ticking for all potential pros in college, Moss and Cook included. Four years in college usually means your pro career will start in Belgium or Belarus or somewhere like that.
Only 13 seniors were among last year’s 60 draftees, 11 of them in the second round where nothing is guaranteed. Jok didn’t get drafted. Iowa State’s Monte Morris was, but he went 51st and ended up signing a 2-way contract with the Denver Nuggets. That meant he had to spend most of the season in the NBA G League.
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As of 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, 12 Big Ten players had declared themselves early-entry candidates. Six of them, including Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., are expected to sign with agents and are on their way to The League. (Here is an updated list of all the early-entries.)
Those who aren’t hiring agents include not only Cook and Moss, but Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, and Nebraska’s Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr.
There are plenty of mock drafts out there, and they’ll change and change and change before the NBA Draft Combine in mid-May, and between the Combine and the Draft in late June. According to the latest from Sports Illustrated, only Jackson, Bridges and Maryland freshman center Bruno Fernando are projected first-rounders. Fernando has not declared for the draft.
Ohio State’s Keita Diop-Bates, an early-entry and the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, is only 36th on the SI list. Early-entry Tony Carr of Penn State is 38th, early-entry Justin Jackson of Maryland is 40th, expected early-entry junior Wagner is 46th.
That’s it. No Cook or Moss, as you would expect. No Happ, no Carsen Edwards, no Copeland and Palmer. No Wigginton.
That doesn’t mean all those players will withdraw from the process. Last year, Maryland’s Melo Trimble and Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson went undrafted and spent the entire 2017-18 season in the G League. Trimble played for the Iowa Wolves after getting cut from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ training camp last October.
Some players just want to be done with the college game and are willing to play for little pay to get some pro ball under their belts and have pro eyes on them every night.
Others, like Wagner and Haas, high-tailed it back to college to enjoy stellar seasons.
If Cook and Moss are in the first group rather than the second, it could be another long winter for Hawkeye basketball. If they return to Iowa City wiser and hungrier, there should be life after the Big Ten tournament.
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If nothing else, their pending decisions give temporary offseason drama to a program that was devoid of it during the season.