The NCAA made an overdue changein its rules concerning the NBA draft this year, allowing underclassmen a longer window in May to consider their options.
That wasn’t the route Maryland freshman center Diamond Stone chose. Once he was in, he was in.
He says he never second-guessed that decision, and now he’s all over the country doing auditions for various NBA teams.
Stone was one of six players in a group workout for the Charlotte Hornets Thursday. This was the first workout this spring for the Hornets and Stone’s second. He previously was in Atlanta to audition with the Hawks and said Thursday he’s headed to Phoenix next to meet with the Suns.
Stone averaged 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in his only college season. At 6-foot-11, he shot 57 percent from the field for the Terrapins and demonstrated some post moves. But he’s hardly a can’t-miss prospect.
Nbadraft.net’s mock draft has Stone 31st, one spot outside the first round. Draftexpress has Stone 34th. The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement guarantees two seasons of salary to first-round picks, but that’s optional for second-round picks.
But Stone sounded confident Thursday he made the right call forfeiting his college eligibility to turn pro.
“I felt it was the right decision for me. (Maryland) Coach (Mark) Turgeon backed me up with it. He didn’t say ‘Don’t go,’” Stone said. “And plus my agency, Tandem, they thought it was the right decision to make.”
A Maryland exodus
Stone was one of dozens of underclassmen to make themselves available, at least initially, for this draft. Maryland’s entire starting unit turned pro, although guard Melo Trimble later pulled his name to return to Maryland.
What provided Stone with such conviction?
“After the Kansas game I had a week to decide, and I came up with my decision,” he said.
The top-seeded Jayhawks beat fifth seed Maryland 79-63 to advance in the NCAA tournament. In his final game in college basketball Stone finished with five points, four rebounds, a block and four fouls.
“Low-post scoring, that’s what I do. And I see myself as a low-post defender,” Stone said. “I had no thought of going back after I said I was leaving. I wasn’t waiting until the 25th (the NCAA’s deadline) to change my mind.”
Based on his current draft projection, Stone will likely do a slew of these workouts between now and the draft. What did he learn from his first two?
“Pace yourself. These are long workouts with a lot of conditioning. And compete,” Stone said.
Right now this is all so new for Stone and quite exciting.
“Just walking into your hotel room and seeing an envelope with ‘Charlotte Hornets’ on it,” Stone said. “When you’re a little kid, you watched these teams play. And now I’m in their practice facilities working out for them.”
Other than Stone, the five players the Hornets auditioned Thursday look marginal to be drafted. But with the Hornets starting their own Development League franchise in Greensboro next season, it makes sense for them to do plenty of research on rookies who might go undrafted. The Hornets had an undrafted rookie, guard Aaron Harrison, on the roster all last season.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell