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2013 NBA Draft

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Undrafted N.C. State star C.J. Leslie will chase NBA career as a free agent

By Andrew Carter
acarter@newsobserver.com

On the day C.J. Leslie announced that he was leaving N.C. State to enter the NBA draft, a reporter asked him to define his expectations for what kind of professional player he might become.

“I’m not a fortune teller,” Leslie said then. “I can’t tell you that I’m going to be some great player at the next level.”

Fortune teller or not, Leslie likely couldn’t have envisioned that he would go undrafted. The NBA draft came and went on Thursday night without Leslie’s name being called.

When the draft ended, Jay Bilas, the ESPN college basketball analyst who was a part of the network’s draft coverage, spoke briefly about the players who weren’t picked. Leslie was the most surprising member of that group, Bilas said during the broadcast.

Leslie had been projected as an early- to mid-second round pick. Instead, he begins his professional career as an undrafted free agent.

Citing various online reports, the N.C. State official athletic website on Friday reported that Leslie planned to sign with the New York Knicks. The site also reported that Richard Howell, the forward, planned to sign with the Denver Nuggets, and Scott Wood, the guard, with the Los Angeles Clippers.

When undrafted players sign with teams, they essentially receive an extended tryout during the NBA’s summer league. To actually make an NBA roster, Leslie faces a challenging journey.

Leslie during the 2012-13 season led the Wolfpack with an average of 15.1 points per game but his production improved only marginally from his sophomore season. Leslie’s athleticism and talent were rarely questioned in college, but he struggled to maintain consistency and appeared frustrated at times.

When Leslie announced his decision to enter the draft, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said Leslie had been “misperceived by a lot of people.”

“I know there’s a lot of people in the NBA that like his future,” Gottfried said then.

Gottfried also said he believed there was a “strong likelihood” that Leslie would be selected in the first round of the draft. Instead, Leslie, a Raleigh native who was a McDonald’s All-American at Word of God, fell completely out of the draft and now faces an uncertain future.

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter
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