Yesterday, Purdue freshman Nojel Eastern declared for the NBA Draft. It’s unlikely that Eastern will stay in the draft - he was a reserve for the Boilers who is not on any mock draft boards right now - but like any underclassman, he has the option to declare for the draft without hiring an agent. This way, he gets to attend next month’s scouting combine and get feedback about his game, and use that feedback when he (most likely) goes back to Purdue next season. It’s a great opportunity for college players!
But naturally, when some college basketball writers got word of a guy like Eastern declaring, they immediately criticized him:
The latest guy to test the NBA Draft process averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game this past season. Purdue freshman Nojel Eastern. Yep.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 16, 2018
His jumper has a hitch like Charles Barkley’s golf swing. He has a chance to be a solid player eventually at Purdue, no idea what he is doing here.. https://t.co/Lr7XtBNcDN— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) April 16, 2018
I understand Purdue fans are killing me for this tweet ... and agree there is little downside to doing this ... except that he averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. My guess is Matt Painter can give him the feedback he needs ... to get on the court more. https://t.co/ixBywXQbjD— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 17, 2018
It’s strange that college basketball media members are so uptight about this! Would you tell a normal college freshman not to attend a career fair in his chosen field because he’s “not ready?” And would you tell that same freshman not to set up an informational interview with someone in the field? Probably not! Most likely, you’d want him or her to explore their options even if they weren’t going to get the gig. At the very least, they’ll get more constructive criticism than a hacky tweet comparing a jumper to a golf swing.
The whole point of testing the draft waters without an agent is get more information. At IU, Troy Williams did so a couple years ago then declared. Last year, Robert Johnson did the same but decided to return for his senior year. Now, Juwan Morgan will do so as well. At the very least, they’ll get some valuable feedback, or at the most it could be a deciding factor in their future.
A player shouldn’t be scolded for the crime of wanting more information about his game or his career potential from an outside source. Yet, some reporters still think it’s beyond reproach for unpaid student-athletes to learn about avenues where they might, you know, get paid to do the thing they love for a living. John Calipari’s publicity stunt a couple years ago may have been silly, but at the end of the day, it proved the point - this is a smart move for underclassmen, even if they aren’t planning on getting drafted.