Syracuse's Chris McCullough confident of move to NBA despite ACL injury

Despite entering the NBA draft with a torn right anterior cruciate knee ligament, Syracuse freshman forward Chris McCullough says he’s confident he can sell NBA executives on his seriousness-minded approach to rehabilitating the injury and rapidly transform into a productive player.

Chris McCullough dunks during a December game. (Getty)
Chris McCullough dunks during a December game. (Getty)

“This is the kind of injury that players come back strong from all the time in basketball now, and the process has gone good so far,” McCullough told Yahoo Sports on Thursday afternoon. “I’m working hard at the rehab, trying to eat the right foods. … I’ll be back on the court later this year.”

McCullough’s length and promise as an NBA forward could intrigue teams drafting late in the first round who are willing to be patient on his progress, but several NBA executives told Yahoo Sports that he could be chosen in the 30-to-early-40s range of the second round, which would still allow him the chance at a multi-year guaranteed deal.

Beyond his medical reports and physical, the pre-draft interview process will be especially important for McCullough, who’ll need to make a strong impression face to face – given that he can’t perform on the court for teams. Most teams have a favorable impression of his character and work ethic, league officials told Yahoo Sports.

McCullough, who is 6-foot-10, averaged 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in 16 games before the season-ending injury in January. McCullough, 20, had knee surgery Feb. 12 in New York and isn’t expected to return to full basketball activity for several months.

McCullough, a native of New York, was one of the top 20 high school players in the nation upon entering college a year ago.

The fact that McCullough’s girlfriend is due to give birth later this month became a factor in him entering the June draft, he said.

“That played a big part [in the decision],” he told Yahoo Sports.

McCullough had several conversations with Syracuse’s coaching staff on the decision, he said, and leaves on good terms and with a good feeling about his year at Syracuse. McCullough said that the NCAA’s sanctions on the program had no bearing on his decision.

“Getting hurt took me out of the game this year, but I had a great time playing in the [Carrier] Dome, connecting with people in the community,” McCullough said. “I had a great experience at Syracuse, but this was a decision I felt that I needed to make.”