C's offer advice for draftees coming out early

C's offer advice for draftees coming out early
April 18, 2014, 2:15 pm
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C E L T I C S  P L A Y O F F  P I C T U R E 
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Jabari Parker's decision to forgo his final three years of eligibility at Duke and enter the NBA draft took longer than most would have expected.

If you're a borderline first-round pick, it makes sense to take your time.

Still, Parker is a near-lock to be among the top three players taken.

And as several Celtics pointed out recently, the decision to leave school early, regardless of where you are expected to go in the draft, isn't easy.

Celtics forward Jeff Green left Georgetown after his junior season in 2007.

Despite winning several accolades that year such as Big East player of the Year, as well as leading the Hoyas to the Final Four, Green was in no hurry to get to the NBA.

In fact, it was his coach John Thompson III, that urged Green to seriously think about making the leap.

"Coach Thompson at the time, was like a father figure for me away from home," Green told CSNNE.com. "When he told me I should put my name in the draft, I did what he said and listened. It turned out well for me."

Green was selected by the Celtics with the fifth overall pick and was immediately traded to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) that night in a deal that landed Boston Ray Allen who was instrumental in the Celtics bringing Banner 17 to Boston that year.

There's no mistaking Green's narrative is unusual in that he had to be prodded by his coach to leave for the pros, a conversation Green acknowledged was a bit unexpected.

"I was surprised," said Green who returned to the Georgetown campus in the summer months after being drafted to complete work towards a degree in English. "But he saw what the future was in store for myself and I didn't. I took a chance and had faith in his words, and went with what he said."

Kelly Olynyk's decision to leave Gonzaga early was fueled in large part by achieving a number of goals he set for himself and the Bulldogs program prior to enrolling.

"One of my goals going there was to help them achieve something they had not achieved before," Olynyk told CSNNE.com. "And I did that my last year."

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history, and went into the 2013 NCAA Tournament as a top seed with a 31-2 record.

Gonzaga lost 76-70 to Wichita State in the third round of the NCAA tournament, a bitter pill that's still tough to swallow for Olynyk today.

But that serves as one of the few not-so-fond memories he has from his time in college.

That, Olynyk says, is why turning pro is a harder decision for players to make than most believe.

"You have to kind of decide where you are in your life, what you want to accomplish," said Olynyk, a graduate student at the time he turned pro with one year of eligibility remaining. "A lot of it is whether you think you're mentally and physically ready to make the move or if you still want to enjoy the college atmosphere and living with all your friends. It's a different atmosphere in college. Do you want to have fun or do you want to move into the business side of it?"

The decision to leave early worked out well for Olynyk, who was drafted by Dallas with the No. 13 pick and immediately traded to Boston that night for the No. 16 pick and a future second-round selection.

He ranks among the NBA's rookie leaders in several categories, and finished the season with at least 24 points scored in Boston's past three games.

Still, Olynyk is well aware of the tales of players whose decision to leave early did not work out well.

There were 48 underclassmen available to be selected in last year's draft. Only 19 had a chance to shake the hand of now-former NBA commissioner David Stern, an annual rite of passage for players selected in the first round.

"If you're going to leave you want to make sure that when you leave, you'll be in a position that will help you or give you an opportunity at least to make something happen," Olynyk said. "Some of the guys that leave who think they're going to be drafted, and don't. Now they have to go to Europe, or the D-League. You see careers just ending."

That wasn't the case for Phil Pressey who went undrafted last June, only to sign a multi-year deal with Boston following a strong showing for the Celtics' summer-league team.

More than anything else, Pressey said his decision to turn pro came down to ultimately believing that there was no room for his game to grow at the college level.

"I just felt like I was individually ready," said Pressey who left Missouri after his junior season. "I broke a couple of records at my school. That's what I wanted to do there. I just think if you think you're ready to go, talk to your family and get some good advice from people around you."

Among Pressey's inner circle was his father Paul Pressey, a former NBA player and assistant coach in Boston.

"Having people around that know you and that you trust, definitely helps," Pressey said. "But I feel at the end of the day it's up to you, it's your decision. You have to live with it, nobody else."

The opportunity to make millions is always incentive for players to come out early, but Jared Sullinger cautions that kind of thinking may do a player more harm than good.

"One of the things my dad [Satch Sullinger] would tell me is to just play your game, and you won't have to chase money. Money will chase you," said Jared Sullinger who left Ohio State after his sophomore season.

Sullinger had an opportunity to leave Ohio State after his freshman year in 2011 and in all likelihood would have been drafted higher than when the Celtics nabbed him with the No. 21 overall pick in 2012.

"But I wasn't ready," Sullinger told CSNNE.com. "I wasn't ready for the lifestyle, I wasn't ready for the money, I just wasn't ready to be a professional. The best thing for me was to go back to school. I have no regrets; none."

Indeed, regret is the biggest fear that to some degree exists with players who decide to turn pro early.

Will I live to regret this decision?

Pressey says if you're thinking along those lines, returning to school might be the best thing for you.

"If you're not sure, you're going to be in a world that's all business; strictly business," Pressey said. "If you're not ready for it, you're going to be out of it very quickly. A lot of guys want that glamour and all that stuff that comes with it. But there's a business side of it. It can eat you up if you're not prepared for it.

Pressey added, "it's all on you; look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, 'are you ready? Because whatever you do, you have to live with that decision. Nobody else does."