College Basketball

NC State’s Lacey on NBA draft: ‘I know I’m an underdog’

N.C. State's Trevor Lacey (1) shoots as Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas (25) defends in the second half during N.C. State's 71-57 victory over Syracuse at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Saturday, March 7, 2015.
N.C. State's Trevor Lacey (1) shoots as Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas (25) defends in the second half during N.C. State's 71-57 victory over Syracuse at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

The odds of Trevor Lacey hearing his name called at the NBA draft next week are long. The former N.C. State guard understands this.

Lacey’s doing his best to improve his chances. The versatile 6-foot-3 guard was in Charlotte on Tuesday morning for a workout with the Hornets. It was the 11th team he has auditioned for, with another coming up in Orlando.

Lacey, who left N.C. State after his junior year, hops from city to city hoping to make an impression.

“I know I’m an underdog,” Lacey said. “I know I’m a guy that’s getting overlooked. At the end of the day, whether you have hype behind your name or not, you still have to perform, and that’s all I’ve been doing.”

Lacey went through a series of drills at the Hornets’ practice facility with a handful of other second-round hopefuls. He was running with a group of guys from VCU, Bowling Green and Northern Iowa, college players who understand how to operate outside the spotlight and work around the margins.

After leading N.C. State in scoring (15.7 points per game) and to a spot in the Sweet 16, Lacey decided this was the right time for him to pursue a professional career.

Lacey, who will turn 24 in October, said his age was a factor in leaving school with one year of eligibility remaining.

“I’m just ready to start my life,” said Lacey, who spent the first two years of his college career at Alabama. “A lot of people question (the decision) or maybe say that I’m not ready. I’m an older guy, and I’m ready for wherever it takes me.”

Lacey’s name doesn’t show up on most mock drafts, not even as a second-round flier. He is seen as being in between guard positions, he’s not quite big enough to play shooting guard and not quite quick enough to play the point. There are concerns about his on-the-ball defense and if his one-on-one scoring ability will translate against bigger defenders in the NBA.

These are all issues Lacey understands, and he welcomes the chance to prove doubters wrong, either during predraft workouts or in one of the NBA’s summer leagues. Lacey said staying at N.C. State another year would only put the questions off for a year, not answer them.

“I don’t think I’d get a lot of credit for dominating a bunch of 18- or 19-year-olds if I’m a grown man,” Lacey said. “But if I do just the same as them, it’s ‘Oh, he’s a grown man and he’s not standing out.’

“How am I going to win in that situation?”

The way N.C. State finished the season also factored in Lacey’s decision. After winning six of its final eight games leading up to the NCAA tournament, the Wolfpack came back from 16 points down to edge LSU in the Round of 64 and knocked off No. 1 seed Villanova to reach the Sweet 16.

“We had a good season this year and made a good run, and I felt like it was the best time for me,” Lacey said.

While N.C. State would have been one of the favorites to win the ACC next season if Lacey had returned, he said building on last season’s success was no sure thing.

“If we have one of those crazy seasons where we fall off, then what?” Lacey said.

Lacey said one NBA coach told him he made the right decision, based on his age, to start his pro career.

The question now for Lacey is where will that be? The NBA is his goal but he said if he has to start his career in Europe, he welcomes the chance to make enough money to help his mother, Freda, who works as a nurse in Huntsville, Ala.

“I’d do anything to help her,” Lacey said.

There’s a good chance that might mean going to another country to make a living, but Lacey’s ready to accept whatever comes next in his life.

“I have my mind set on the NBA, but I’m not a guy that’s (thinking) NBA or nothing,” Lacey said. “I know it’s a process and if (going to Europe) is part of my process to get to the NBA, then I’m willing to do that.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938