Almond to test NBA draft waters, declares early entry
The men’s basketball team may not lose only seniors this year. Junior guard Morris Almond, a CollegeInsider.com All-American this season, declared for the NBA draft Monday. Almond decided to not hire an agent, which allows him to withdraw from the draft and return to Rice for his senior year if he chooses.
“After this season, I think I put myself in a position to at least consider it,” Almond said. “It’s a goal of mine. I thought that it’s kind of a low-risk, win-win situation, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Almond had a breakout season this year. He led the both the Owls and Conference USA in scoring with 21.9 points per game overall and 25.1 points per game in conference play. The 6’6” guard also led the Owls, along with senior forward J.R. Harrison, in rebounding with 5.8 boards per game. Almond scored at least 30 points eight times over the course of the season, including a stretch of four games in a row in early February.
Almond discussed his idea to enter the draft with coaches and teammates, and he said they mostly agree with his decision. Almond said head coach Willis Wilson (Will Rice ‘82) told him he strongly believes the decision was a sound one.
“He was very supportive of it,” Almond said. “[Wilson] said he anticipated it, and he agreed with me in that I should at least consider it. With the season that I had … and with the draft class that’s coming out this year, he thought that I stacked up well.”
Almond has until June 18, ten days before the draft, to withdraw from the draft and preserve his eligibility at Rice. He is still taking classes and plans on getting his degree if he returns.
“I don’t think he is in a position right now to really make a decision,” Wilson said. “Morris has put himself in a position to garner attention from the NBA, and I think there is a strong belief that some point in his career he [will be] an NBA caliber player.”
This year, Almond was also named to the conference’s first team, and he was the only Owl on any of the all-conference teams. Almond also won District VII first-team honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association and was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ District 9 second team.
Along with his numerous awards, Almond’s decision whether or not to stay in the draft gives Rice some name recognition in the basketball world. Wilson said that Almond’s decision to enter the draft is only helping Rice in its recruiting battle.
“It’s a true indicator for any potential prospects looking at Rice that you can have the best of both worlds,” Wilson said. “You get a world class education and play your sport at the highest level.”
The determining factor in Almond’s decision may be the NBA’s pre-draft camp, which will be held in Orlando, Florida starting June 6. The camp provides scouts with their best and, at times, only opportunity to see players compete against NBA-level talent. It is one of the few opportunities for players to increase their draft stock after the season.
“You can play yourself into the first round through individual workouts with teams and with the pre-draft camp that the NBA puts on,” Almond said. “My goal is to play myself into the first round and get a first round guarantee. If not, I’m coming back to school.”
Until that time however, Almond will complete his spring classes and continue to practice.
“I’m not leaning one way or another,” Almond said. “I’m just talking it day by day. I’m going to go in, give it my best shot, train as hard as I can, get in the best shape that I can, and just see what happens.”
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