Early NBA draft entrants — like Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn and Paul Reed — are playing the waiting game

Early NBA draft entrants — like Ayo Dosunmu, Kofi Cockburn and Paul Reed — are playing the waiting game

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CHICAGO — DePaul forward Paul Reed spent three weeks in Chicago attending a workout facility, where he received one-on-one training with intense drills and a focus on strength and conditioning. Then he was told to go home to Florida and wait.

His agent arranged this mock preparation period so Reed knows what it will be like leading up to the NBA draft.

Whenever that may be.

“A month prior to that, we will do it again,” said Reed’s agent, Ron Shade, a DePaul graduate who works for Octagon sports agency. “So now it’s not foreign to (him). It’s an awkward time, but this is the new normal and we’ll adjust.”

Players who declared early entry into the NBA draft are in a strange limbo. Reed, a junior, and sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu and freshman center Kofi Cockburn of Illinois are among those patiently awaiting a timeline for their futures.

Dates have changed frequently as the league ponders the best path amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA, which indefinitely suspended its season March 11, announced May 1 it was postponing the draft lottery and combine that had been scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday in Chicago.

The NCAA also pushed back its June 3 deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw and retain college eligibility, although it has not set a new date.

The pre-draft process is usually a key time for on-the-fence draftees to showcase their talents.

“That’s my goal at the end of the day, to play in the NBA and work as hard as I can to be picked as high as possible,” Dosunmu said last week on a conference call with reporters. “Of course, I didn’t sign with an agent because there’s so many uncertainties. But if everything goes the right way and everything gets back on track, of course, I’ll be staying in the draft and working out to be the best player I can be.”

Dosunmu, a Chicago native who played at Morgan Park High School, recently found a Chicago gym that allowed him to work out privately to avoid breaking social-distancing guidelines. Some mock drafts project the 6-foot-5 guard as a late second-round pick, while he’s not listed in others.

Dosunmu said he is being patient and will be ready when a combine date is scheduled. His draft stock potentially took a hit when the Big Ten tournament and NCAA Tournament, which Illinois figured to appear in after going 21-10, were canceled.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, if there was an NCAA Tournament, you’d be a top-15, top-20 pick,’ ” said Dosunmu, who led Illinois with 16.6 points per game and hit several game-winning shots. “Well, nothing’s changed. I’ve still got the same skills (as) if there would have been an NCAA Tournament. It’s just about people seeing it — the right people seeing it.”

The 6-9 Reed made massive jumps in his game after his freshman season. Scouts finally had a reason to go to DePaul games to watch a Blue Demons player rather than check out an opponent.

After averaging 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 51.6% as a junior, the versatile Reed is projected in many mock drafts as a mid-second-round selection. He’s only the second high-major player since 2001 to average at least two blocks and two steals per game, according to NBC Sports.

NBA teams can’t work out individual players or interview them in person, but they are permitted to interview players virtually for a total of four hours.

“I just try to be myself,” Reed said. “They’re just trying to get to know you. I’m just trying to stay ready every day.”

Coming off a Big Ten Freshman of the Year season in which he averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, the 7-foot Cockburn wanted to see where he stood in the NBA draft. Like Dosunmu, he has not hired an agent, even though a 2018 NCAA rule change allows early draft entrants to hire an agent and still withdraw and retain eligibility. Cockburn’s name is absent from most prominent mock drafts.

Cockburn, Dosunmu and Reed are among more than 160 non-seniors who declared for the draft.

Dosunmu said he’s focused on “turning my weaknesses into my strengths.”

“There’s going to be a combine,” he said. “There’s going to be a place where I’m going to be able to show my talents and show everything I can do.”

Their main game right now is the waiting game.


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