NBA lottery prospect Ferguson: ‘I’m way more prepared than any college player’

Of all the American-born picks projected to be taken in the top 20 of this draft, no player is more of a mystery than Terrance Ferguson. The former five-star prospect committed to Arizona in 2016, but it was almost a year ago that Ferguson made the decision to jettison his college hoops career for an overseas stopover on his way to the NBA

Ferguson earned his keep playing in Australia for a pro team, the Adelaide 36ers, and in doing so maintained his top-20 status in the 2017 draft pool. He did this despite averaging a meager 4.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 15.1 minutes across a 30-game season in the National Basketball League. Ferguson gave up being a star on an Arizona team that might well have made the Final Four with him in exchange for a solid paycheck and professional-level training. Nothing wrong with that at all. 

And now Ferguson is speaking out about how his experience is superior, from an NBA standpoint, to those who opted to be one-and-dones in college. 

Ferguson spoke with the Charlotte Observer and detailed why he’s still in position not only to be picked highly, but why he’s in a better spot than anyone else his age in this year’s draft. With the benefit of a year behind him in the pro ranks, here’s what he said:

“I’m way more prepared than any college player,” Ferguson said. “A college player is coming in thinking he’s the man. After you’ve sat on the bench (on a pro team), they’re not going to like that. I’ve already faced that overseas. I overcome that, so I have the right mindset coming into the league. …

“Most one-and-done players are only going to spend a couple of months in college,” Ferguson said. “You’ve got to do school work and all this other stuff. When you go overseas, you’ll spend the same amount of months (before being NBA draft-eligible), but you’ll be focused (exclusively) on straight-on basketball.

Ferguson’s comments are timed well: The NBA Draft could set a record this year, as the first round will be dominated by 19-year-olds and probably wind up featuring more freshman draft picks than any other draft ever.    

Ferguson makes a good case, but his lack of production also speaks to level of jump it is from playing high school and AAU basketball to going to B-level pro ranks. College players also make a big jump, but as it stands now, major Division I college basketball — with its million-dollar facilities, Hall of Fame coaches, highly paid trainers and resourced athletic departments — are still proving to be the most efficient and realistic way of preparing young prospects for making the jump to the NBA.

Ferguson is the latest of a small fraternity: players who skipped college but wound up getting drafted anyway, a year removed from high school, after earning money overseas. Emmanuel Mudiay and Brandon Jennings did the same. All three have one thing in common: They didn’t make the move based on money or pre-NBA prep alone. All three had serious eligibility concerns prior to moving overseas.

So Jennings, Mudiay and Ferguson haven’t altered the paradigm. With no five-star in the class of 2017 encountering eligibility issues, all those players opted to play in the NCAA vs. earning good money immediately overseas. Jennings could wind up being more prepared for the culture shock of the NBA than Malik Monk, Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz or Jayson Tatum. There is value in that (how much remains to be seen), and little doubt that whatever team selects him will do in so in part because of his year in Australia.

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