UNI Panthers

AJ Green wants to return to UNI basketball after NBA Draft process

Panther sophomore declares for draft for feedback, could stay in with first-round promise

Northern Iowa's AJ Green dribbles as Drake's Noah Thomas defends during the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball
Northern Iowa's AJ Green dribbles as Drake's Noah Thomas defends during the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament in March. Green has declared for the NBA Draft, seeking feedback on how to improve his game. (Associated Press)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa sophomore guard AJ Green is looking for some NBA feedback.

But if an NBA team decides they want him ...

“There’s no guarantees, but (an NBA team) would have to say, like, first-round pick or something like, ‘we’ll take you wherever in the first round,’” Green said Sunday. “But even then I’m not sure I would go (to the NBA) because I think there’s still a lot of growth I can have while still in college with the two years I have left."

Green declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Saturday, according to a UNI release.

Green will not be hiring an agent so he can maintain his college eligibility.

It appears the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year will submit his name to the draft to go through the process and get valuable feedback on his game from personnel he otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

“A lot of it was what I had heard from Coach (Ben Jacobson),” Green said. “Coach talked to quite a few people that he knows around the league, got some feedback from them about what they thought would be a good decision for me, and then I talked to Coach about it and talked to my family a lot about it.

“Just based on what we heard we thought it wouldn’t hurt, and be a good idea, to declare and try and get some feedback from teams.”

College players who declare for the NBA Draft are afforded 20 hours to work out and meet with coaches and personnel. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, opportunities to get to NBA facilities are likely to be more difficult.

“It’s a lot of unknowns, so I haven’t heard too much. I have heard that (workouts) might get moved back,” Green said. “Normally I think you’d have workouts this upcoming month in May, but I think because of everything going on they might get moved back to the end of summer and it might only be a week or two period where they can bring guys in to work out.”

After winning the MVC’s Freshman of the Year award in 2019, Green followed it up by winning the league’s player of the year award this season. The Cedar Falls native increased his points per game by 4.7 to 19.7 per contest this past season.

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He also scored more than 20 points in 14 games as a sophomore, cut down on his turnovers and improved his ability to score at all three levels.

While it’s likely Green will return, his eventual selection in a future NBA Draft would be UNI’s first since 1973, when Bill McCoy was taken in the sixth round by the Seattle SuperSonics.

Headed into NBA workouts Green knows there’s at least one particular area of his game he’ll be urged to work on if he wants to succeed as a professional.

“I would say it’s defensively; making sure I can defend,” Green said. “Not just my position, but a few positions. I think that’s something I’ve got to for sure work on for the future.”

Green has been getting shots up during the pandemic in his parents’ driveway and occasionally at some gyms. Meanwhile, the team has stayed in touch during social distancing on Zoom calls and on Snapchat. The junior-to-be said there’s still a lot he’s focused on accomplishing with his teammates at UNI before moving on.

“Coming back is something that I want to do not only for myself, but all my teammates, too,” Green said. “I still haven’t gotten to an NCAA tournament and that’s something we always talk about as a program.”

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