Well, I guess I should have been prepared for this possibility all along, but now it appears to be something that we have to take seriously. According to the Chicago Tribune, Luke Harangody is considering the idea of putting his name into the NBA Draft (without hiring an agent of course). Say it ain’t so!
First, since I have said for years that players should always consider making the leap to the NBA if they have nothing to gain from another year in college for draft purposes, I would be a hypocrite to say that Harangody would be unwise to go pro after this year. My feeling on leaving early is that you should always be looking to maximize your draft stock. For some guys, that means leaving after their freshmen year when their stock is at an all-time high (BJ Mullens would be a great example of that). If you are a lottery pick after your freshman year and coming back is probably only going to hurt your stock as scouts get another year to pick you apart, then take the money and run.
For other guys, it might be wise to stay a couple years or even all four years. A perfect example of a guy who made a good decision by staying in school was Sam Young. If he had come out after last year, he would not have even been drafted. Now, he’s a virtual lock to go in the first round and probably going to be drafted somewhere around 20. He went from a guy who would be scrapping to make the league to a guy who is getting guaranteed money for the next few years as a first rounder. Plus, he’s brimming with confidence and ready to go into the league and contribute. I’m a huge Sam Young fan and think someone is getting a steal with him at the end of the first round. He could be like a Brandon Rush or CDR type player, and both those guys have been playing well of late. Kenyon Martin would be another great example. He went from a guy who could barely even play college ball to the #1 pick in the draft by his senior year. If you can improve your draft stock significantly by coming back to college, it’s never a bad idea to come back.
For Luke Harangody, it’s hard to look at him and think that he’s going to be able to do anything that really improves his draft stock next year. Harangody can become a better all-around player (especially on defense), but scouts pretty much know what he is capable of doing at this point. He is viewed as a finished product. If he’s not a first rounder this year, he’s probably not a first rounder next year either. Whenever he decides to take a shot at pro ball, he’s going to be a second round kinda guy. The major internet mock drafts (NBADraft.net, Draft Express, etc) are projecting him as a late 2nd rounder for 2010. That’s about where I’d see him going.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think Harangody can play in the NBA. For the most part, NBA scouts and GMs are dumb. They always undervalue guys like Harangody, and then they’re surprised when he ends up having a solid 10 year career. Harangody can play in the NBA. If Jason Maxiell can play in the NBA, Harangody can too. He’s probably never going to be a starter, but I think he can definitely be a big man off the bench for a lot of teams. He can score, he can rebound, he plays hard, and he’s dedicated to the game. There are all kinds of guys in the NBA who were second rounders or undrafted free agents. When it comes to pro basketball, it comes down to self-discipline and desire. If you really dedicate yourself and act like a professional, you can make it in the league. I have no doubt that Harangody would do just that.
But in terms of his draft value, he’s never going to be a highly-desired commodity. For that reason alone, I can see why he might think about the NBA after this year. If you are going to be a 2nd rounder this year and a 2nd rounder next year, why not get to the league and start working on your game 365 days a year against the best players in the world?? He’s not really gaining anything by chewing up the big men on DePaul and St. Johns for another year. Sooner or later, he’ll need to figure out what it takes to become successful at the NBA level, and most NBA players will tell you that the only way to do that is to get to the league and start practicing against these guys. In the NBA, you have the best training facilities, no classes, all the time in the world to practice, the best trainers and physicians, and all of the latest technology and video equipment. It’s a laboratory for basketball, and you can stand there and shoot jumpers all day long without worrying about having to finish some Philosophy paper the next day. If Harangody is ready for that type of commitment and environment, then he should think about leaving.
I will hold hope on two reasons for him to come back though. One is that he just isn’t ready for the NBA from a mental standpoint. Even though Harangody is an accomplished player at ND, he is much more of a collegiate type than your typical pro-in-training. Harangody is a country boy. Going to the NBA is a whole different world, and he might not be ready for all that yet. He might just like being on campus in the ND bubble. I know he’s close to Scott Martin and some other teammates, so he might want to spend another year with those guys hanging out in South Bend. That world can be very comforting, and he might prefer to do another year at ND and then go out into the real world after that. I think that is going to be a strong pull for him back to ND. If he goes to the NBA and isn’t mentally ready for it, he’s going to have problems right away that will affect his career. I agree with Brey’s assessment that Harangody should not even consider going if he’s not 100% committed to it.
The other reason is that he just loves college basketball and wants a chance to redeem himself and leave a legacy at ND. This past season had to have left a bitter taste in his mouth, and maybe he wants one last chance to make a run at the Sweet 16. I think Harangody has enjoyed his time at ND playing under Coach Brey, and he might feel like he owes it to Brey and the school and his teammates to come back and play his senior year.
Let’s be honest, if Harangody leaves, we are absolutely screwed. Harangody probably knows that as well as anyone. Look at what this hypothetical lineup would look like if Gody leaves.
PG – Jackson
SG – Hansbrough
SF – Martin
PF – Nash
C - Knight
Bench: Peeples, Broghammer, Cooley, Brooks, Scott
That team would be lucky to make the NIT. We’d have almost zero inside presence, and we’d still have the same athleticism problems that have plagued us for years. Harangody gives this program a chance at the NCAAs next year, and it would be a devastating blow if he left.
Anyway, should be interesting to see what transpires over the next couple of weeks. I think he’ll be back at ND, but I’m prepared for the possibility that he will enter his name into the draft and “test the waters.” It sounds like he is unsure of whether he even wants to do that, which is a sign to me that he doesn’t really want to leave just yet. Hopefully there’s nothing to the rumors of him leaving, but I’m going to be a little on edge waiting for him to make his decision.