South Carolina guard P.J. Dozier’s ability to opt out of the 2017 NBA Draft if he doesn’t like what league executives tell him over the next month or so about his draft status was a key factor in his decision to declare and pursue the opportunity to play pro basketball at the highest level.
Dozier’s next step is preparing for the NBA Draft Combine, which takes place May 9-14.
NCAA rules allow underclassmen to dip their toe into the NBA Draft waters and work through the pre-draft process while retaining next year’s eligibility, provided they do not hire an agent.
“Having that option made the decision (to declare for the NBA Draft) that much easier,” the 6-foot-6 Dozier said Thursday, a day after he formally declared for the NBA Draft.
The early entry deadline is April 23, and college players have until 10 days after the draft combine (May 24 deadline) to withdraw from the draft pool.
Essentially, the rule is a win-win for players, particularly for those NBA prospects unsure where they will be drafted and are eager to keep playing college basketball in case the NBA doesn’t work out yet.
“Guys are able to go into the draft, get some feedback and see where we are and then make the choice if we want to go or not,” Dozier said Thursday. “Right now, we’re just taking it step by step.
“This was the first step, making the decision to enter the draft. This allows everybody to know I’m interested in making the next step. Now I’ll go train, continue to get better and build my skill set, and make the final decision when the time comes.”
The latest mock NBA Draft at NBADraft.net doesn't have Dozier being selected in the two-round proceeding. Teammate Sindarius Thornwell is projected at No. 32 overall (early second round) to the Phoenix Suns.
Of course, Dozier should have an opportunity to improve his draft stock at the NBA Draft Combine.
Frank Martin has supported Dozier every step of the way, including Wednesday’s initial decision to submit his name for the draft.
“He has been a lot of help,” Dozier said. “He’s a great guy. He definitely handled this like I was one of his sons. He has my best interests in mind. I have the utmost faith and trust in him.”
Dozier was second on the Gamecocks behind Sindarius Thornwell in scoring this season with an average of 13.9 points per game. He also dished out a team-high 2.8 assists, pulled down 4.8 rebounds and collected 1.7 steals per game.
Dozier saved some of his best basketball of the 2016-17 season for the pressure-packed NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He connected on 50.8 percent (33-65) of his shot attempts in helping the Gamecocks secure their first ever Final Four berth along with the school’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1973.
Dozier led the Gamecocks in scoring in the national semifinal matchup against Gonzaga, scoring 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in 30 minutes of action.
“I was definitely happy how we had that run during the Tournament,” Dozier said. “Not only for me, but my team as well. It put eyes on individual players. With team success comes individual success.”
Dozier is confident he will someday make it in the NBA, whether it’s this year, next year or the year after that.
“I think I have a great shot,” Dozier said. “I have a lot of confidence in myself. Playing for Coach Martin, I’m prepared for playing at the next level and making decisions like this. He has been doing a great job with me in terms of that.”
Sindarius Thornwell scored 118 points in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the 4th-most by an SEC player in a single tournament. pic.twitter.com/NgvohFRIRL
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 2, 2017
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) April 4, 2017
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) April 1, 2017