Joel Embiid took a deep breath before entering the interview room to make the announcement that was largely a foregone conclusion.
“After thinking a lot, I decided to declare for the NBA Draft,” Embiid said Wednesday, flanked by Kansas coach Bill Self at a news conference.
The decision had been made on Sunday, Embiid said. He had talked to his parents, adviser Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and some current and past NBA players, including the one he has been most often compared to at a similar age, Hakeem Olajuwon.
Olajuwon, a NBA Hall of Famer, is also Embiid’s idol.
“I was excited,” Embiid said of their conversation this week. “He was talking to me, and I don’t even remember what he said. I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ ”
Embiid figures to make a more definitive statement in the NBA, where analysts who project the draft order have him being taken in the top five.
“His ceiling is ridiculously high,” Self said. The Kansas City Star
Embiid only played 23.1 minutes per game but somehow averaged 11.2 PPG and 8.1 RPG – that’s not astronomical but still impressive. He moves well, much more graceful than you might expect, has great instincts and better footwork than most veteran big men in the NBA.
That said, Embiid missed the NCAA tournament with a stress fracture in his back. There are varying opinions on how seriously the injury will impede Embiid in the future, but an optimistic diagnosis assumes the back problems will return. We need more quality big men in the league so I’m hoping for the best. – AL