By Alan Gerould, Senior Writer, BroncoBlitz
KALAMAZOO -- A University Arena press conference was convened at center court at high noon on Tuesday so that Western Michigan University guard Thomas Wilder could announce that he had made himself available for consideration for the NBA Draft.
Wilder left the door open for his possible return for his senior year by not hiring an agent.
“This is a great opportunity for Thomas,” WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said. “Thomas is going to get very valuable insight on his future while not jeopardizing his eligibility here at Western Michigan. We’re going to support him in every way possible to help him achieve his dreams.”
The NCAA adopted a new rule last year that allows players to better evaluate their possibility of success or even being drafted by an NBA team. Wilder will attend team workouts and perhaps even be invited to the NBA combine on May 9-14th in Chicago. Wilder would have 10 days after that to decide whether or not to forego his senior year and enter the draft.
"I have talked at length with family and Coach Hawkins about this decision and I am very comfortable with it," Wilder said. "I am looking at this opportunity as a win-win situation for me. I truly believe that our team next year will compete for a Mid-American Conference Championship, and by entering my name in the NBA Draft, I will receive a valuable prospective from people in the NBA regarding my basketball future, feedback that will also help me to be a better contributor to next season’s Bronco team.”
Wilder said that he reached out to Bronco football player Corey Davis, who many thought might make himself eligible last year for the NFL draft. Davis, of course, decided to return for his senior season and ended up becoming the all-time leading receiver in NCAA FBS history. By doing so, Davis is projected as the first or second receiver to be drafted the last week of April. Davis told Wilder that everybody's situation is different, but there was no real downside to him testing the water.
Hawkins talked about Wilder in glowing terms.
"Thomas had only one Division l scholarship offer coming out of prep school and came here with something to prove. Everything he has accomplished here has been due to his hard work," Hawkins said. "He's always one of the first in the gym and usually the last to leave and he has been very coachable. He is a humble, thoughtful young man and has the heart to succeed."
Wilder led the league in scoring as a sophomore and was selected to the All-MAC Second Team. This year, as a junior, Wilder was selected to the All-MAC first team and was one of the most dangerous players in the MAC. He was deadly at times from the perimeter, converting 63 out of 142 three attempts, but was probably best known for his ability to attack the rim and draw fouls. Wilder went to the free throw line 191 times this season converting on 159 of them.
Personally, I thought that Wilder's biggest area of growth was as a team leader. It was obvious that the young team that WMU put out on the court this season looked to Thomas and lone senior Tucker Haymond as its floor generals and their effectiveness was reflected in a nine game win streak to end the year.
We wish Thomas well as he further explores expanding his basketball horizons and know that he is getting sound advice from his coaches and family as opposed to a greedy "agent that just wants to get in his pocket," which is how Hawkins put it. One thing is for sure, he will always and forever be a Bronco.