The time to talk about what junior Keita Bates-Diop has described as “the hardest decision I’ll have to make” can be postponed no longer.
Less than an hour after Ohio State’s season ended Saturday against Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Boise, Idaho, those were the words Bates-Diop used to describe what awaited him.
Already a graduate and this year’s Big Ten player of the year, Bates-Diop played himself into the national spotlight and upward in NBA draft projections.
The questions now are simple: Will he stay or go, and if he goes, what does the NBA think of his potential?
In the latest DraftExpress mock draft posted to ESPN on Tuesday, Bates-Diop was projected to be drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the No. 17 pick. But Jonathan Givony, creator of DraftExpress and now in his 15th year of keeping tabs on draft prospects, said that’s far from a lock.
“I don’t think he’s locked into any one spot,” Givony said. “He’s moved up on our board and he’s been in the first round for months now, but that 16-30 range is really wide open at this point. I know teams really fluctuate on where they have him. Some teams have him in that upper tier and some have him in the late first or the second round.
“He’s not guaranteed anything at this point.”
Eligible college players have until April 22 to declare for the draft, and they can do so without hiring an agent to get further draft feedback. They then have until June 11 to withdraw from the draft and keep their collegiate eligibility.
After averaging 9.7 points in only nine games before taking a medical redshirt last season, Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds this season and posted 12 double-doubles. But the prevailing question about Bates-Diop concerns his motor.
“I think he played well for the most part,” said one NBA scout, who requested anonymity. “He’s done a good job of scoring and rebounding. I think my issues with him, he’s answered a little bit better, the consistency issue, but he’s still very passive in my opinion. I don’t know, it could just be his makeup, his personality, but he’s not in attack mode enough for me.”
In addition to speaking with his family and the Ohio State coaching staff, Bates-Diop said he’ll also likely reach out to former Buckeyes such as Evan Turner and Deshaun Thomas, both of whom left after their junior seasons.
Should Bates-Diop not return, Ohio State would be slated to return 43.3 percent of its scoring from this season’s team.
“He does a lot of different things and that’s really what today’s NBA game is all about is having a guy out there that you can throw onto guards, you can throw him onto big men, he can shoot the three, he can pass it, he can handle it,” Givony said. “Theoretically, he can do everything.”
The question just comes back to consistency.
“Classy, top-notch people all the way through,” the scout said of Bates-Diop and his family. “He’s the type of kid we’d love to have in our organization based on what I know, but my thought is I struggle a little bit knowing I’ll have to motivate him to play at times. I don’t like doing that. I’d rather slow you down than speed you up. Would we take him? I don’t know.”