NEW YORK – Childhood dreams came true at the 2007 NBA Draft Thursday night. Sixty college-aged basketball players were selected by NBA teams and officially became professionals. Many of them became millionaires.
But there is no happy ending for any members of the Michigan men’s basketball team’s 2007 graduating class – at least not yet.
Lester Abram, Dion Harris, Brent Petway and Courtney Sims were not among those drafted at the Madison Square Garden Theater. This marks the third-consecutive year that no Wolverine was picked.
Going undrafted isn’t the end of the road in regards to NBA stardom. For these four, it is likely just the beginning in a longer, harder journey. All four will now try to latch on to an NBA summer league team. Petway has already signed on with the Atlanta Hawks for summer league play, which begins July 6 in Las Vegas.
The McDonough, Ga. native will now have a chance to play for his hometown team.
“(Brent) chose to sign with the Hawks as a function of desire and opportunity,” said Geoffrey Craig, Petway’s agent. “We were in touch with every NBA team and felt this was the best situation for him.”
Prior to the draft, Petway worked out with the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons, in addition to the Hawks. According to ESPN.com, Sims worked out for the Boston Celtics a few weeks ago. But reports indicate he was little more than a workout partner for former Florida forward Joakim Noah, who went ninth to the Chicago Bulls.
Abram, Harris and Sims could not be reached for comment.
Many sports agents actually prefer the scenario Petway and the other three graduated seniors must now go through. Going undrafted can sometimes be better than getting selected in the second round, where contracts are not guaranteed.
“A lot of times a player is better off going undrafted than being the 59th or 60th pick in the draft because then as soon as the draft is over, you’re a free agent,” said agent Brad Ames of Priority Sports. “You’ve got 30 teams to negotiate with or to try and get interested in your client rather than the one that drafts you.”
Their omission from the NBA Draft couldn’t have come as much of a shock for the four former Wolverines. None were even listed amongst the 133 possible picks in the guide mailed to members of the media as the draft approached.
The last Michigan player to be selected in the NBA Draft was Bernard Robinson, Jr. in 2004. He was a second-round pick of the Charlotte Bobcats. Last year, many assumed Daniel Horton would be picked in the second round, but he went undrafted. Horton eventually signed on with the Miami Heat, but did not make the team out of summer league play. He split time between Turkey and the NBDL this season.
All four of the 2007 graduates had solid college careers, but none could get Michigan over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. Abram, Harris and Sims all scored over 1,000 points in their Wolverine careers and former coach Tommy Amaker called Petway the “heart and soul” of this year’s team.
Signing with the right summer league team will be essential for all of them. They must choose a team that has a need for them. Some will question Petway’s decision to sign with the Hawks given the glut they have at small forward – which is what Petway will likely play in the NBA. His chances of making the roster competing against players like Josh Childress, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams are slim.
The likelihood any of the four the four departing Wolverines make an NBA training camp is marginal at best. And once they get to training camp, they will still have to beat out several others competing for one or two roster spots.
“It’s a tough transition, but the reality is that if you look at the NBA, almost everyone already has their No 1, 2 and 3 scorers,” Ames said. “When you’re looking at getting into the NBA from (the undrafted) angle, you’re not focusing on one aspect of your game.
“Shooting alone isn’t going to get you there or your ability to score. It’s the all around intangibles, the hustle, the defense, being able to guard most positions and being able to defer to other guys. All those different things are going to factor into whether you are going to get an opportunity whether that’s in the summer leagues or in a training camp.”