Posted on Wed, Jun. 29, 2005
Ex-Kentucky players overlooked in draft
By Jerry Tipton
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER
In noting players who mistakenly forfeited their remaining college eligibility to enter last night's NBA Draft, basketball commentator Dick Vitale mentioned two former Kentucky players first.
"Who's advising these kids?" Vitale said as ESPN's telecast of the draft moved deep into the second and final round. "Randolph Morris. Kelenna Azubuike. ... They're going to be basketball vagabonds. They're listening to the wrong people."
Neither Morris nor Azubuike was selected in the 60-pick draft. NBA teams also passed over Chuck Hayes, the senior leader of Kentucky's team this past season and a foundational four-year player that UK billed as the college game's winningest performer.
None of the players could be reached for comment.
But people close to Hayes and Azubuike suggested the players will play in the NBA someday.
Gary Porter, who coached Hayes at Modesto (Calif.) Christian, said, "There's definitely a place for him."
Porter noted Hayes' perseverance and determination.
"He'll will himself to play (in the NBA)," Porter said. "It's not like him to quit. He's not a quitter."
Porter acknowledged no surprise in NBA teams bypassing Hayes.
"I think he's going to end up with somebody, probably as a free agent," Porter said. "That's what we've been thinking all along."
Hayes, who chose to watch the draft alone at his Modesto home rather than attend a larger gathering planned in his honor, sounded philosophical before the draft about his status.
"I hear I have some supporters," he said in a quiet voice. "I hear I have some doubters. That's been my whole career. Nothing new."
Azubuike's agent, Joel Bell, said an injury derailed his client's chances of being drafted.
"He was going great until he pulled a groin," the agent said of Azubuike's pre-draft workouts for NBA teams.
The injury caused Azubuike to miss the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago and removed him from individual team workouts for about three weeks, Bell said.
"He's a NBA player," the agent said of Azubuike's long-term basketball future. "Everybody who saw him in workouts knows he's a NBA player."
Chris Ekstrand, a NBA consultant and former editor of the league's official draft guide, had been less impressed with Azubuike's workouts. Azubuike had not distinguished himself from other prospects, Ekstrand said earlier this week.
"This is the time of year you have to separate yourself," Ekstrand said.
Morris' decision to enter the NBA Draft after one season for Kentucky sparked much debate. A high school All-American, he averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds as a UK freshman.
Morris, Azubuike and Hayes were not alone in failing to make a splash in the draft. Only one player from the Southeastern Conference was taken in the first round. The New York Knicks took David Lee of Florida with the final pick of the round.
Reigning SEC Player of the Year Brandon Bass of Louisiana State was taken by New Orleans with the third pick of the second round. Former Mississippi State forward Lawrence Roberts went to Seattle with the 44th pick, then had his rights traded to Memphis. Such familiar SEC players as Alabama's Kennedy Winston and Florida's Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh were not drafted.
Former Louisville standout Francisco Garcia was selected in the first round by the Kings.
END OF JERRY TIPTON'S ARTICLE-----------------------------------------
Why Kelenna Azubuike did not stay around for his final year and make himself into a first-round draft pick with guaranteed money is beyond me... He's got a bad family situation, but it isn't like his dad is getting out of prison anytime soon (5 years). The money would have still been there, and it would have been a much easier road than the one he has now staked himself to. A pulled groin and BLAMMO you ain't gettin' drafted.
I'm a bit surprised that no one took Randolph Morriss, but I still think he should have stayed at least another year... Making an NBA team as a free agent is hardly a piece of cake, and there's a very good chance that he'll end up being forced to play overseas.
Dumb Dumb Dumb.
As far as Chuck Hayes,,, If that kid was 6' 10" instead of 6' 5", he'd have been a lottery pick, instead,,, making it in the NBA is going to be extraordinarily tough for this guy. This guy has got the heart of a lion, but playing power-forward in the NBA at 6' 5" is next to impossible. That's point-guard/shooting-guard size in the NBA. He'd be dwarfed by most 3's, and he simply doesn't have the game of a small forward.
If Chuck doesn't make it in the NBA, however, I have absolutely no doubt that wherever Chuck does end up, he'll be a difference-maker and a positive influence.
I think that Chuck Hayes might be destined for things greater than basketball.
As far as Randolph and Kelenna, however: Stupid Stupid Stupid. :thumbdown