Huggins on McBride’s NBA Draft aspirations: “he’s keeping an open mind”

WVU Basketball

Bob Huggins doesn’t know what the next month will hold for Deuce McBride’s future, but the trusty guard has kept his coach informed throughout every step of the NBA Draft process. 

During an offseason video conference Tuesday, Huggins said he received an update from Deuce “either last night or the night before” as the all-conference guard continues workouts with prospective teams. 

A big decision looms for McBride, who must inform WVU of his intentions to stay in the draft or to withdraw by July 7, but Huggins thinks his team’s leading scorer has handled the process well. 

“He said he’s keeping an open mind, and certainly wants to do what’s in his best interest, which I think we’re all on board with,” Huggins said. 

When the NBA Draft Combine began last week in Chicago, several mock drafts from major outlets like ESPN, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated had tabbed McBride as a first round pick. One basketball analyst even rated McBride as a top-20 prospect in the draft

The player then proceeded to back up those draft projections with a strong performance at the combine. His physical measurements — particularly his wingspan differential — impressed scouts, and he turned in favorable times during a series of strength and agility drills. 

But while McBride has certainly generated some momentum throughout the offseason, Huggins is more cautious about the guard’s future. While most projections now favor McBride as a late first round to early second round pick, perhaps he could push his ceiling higher if he returns to WVU and continues to refine his game for another year. 

There’s plenty of evidence to back up this argument. Huggins shared former Oklahoma State Cowboy Marcus Smart’s trajectory as an example. Instead of entering the draft after his freshman season, Smart returned for a second collegiate season, and eventually became the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. 

That led to a big pay day for Smart, whose salary was more than $3 million in his rookie year. According to NBA rookie pay scale figures compiled by Real GM, late first round picks in this year’s draft stand to make around $1.8 million as rookies, while top 10 picks could earn anywhere from $3.5 million to $8 million.

“Deuce has all this information. His family has all the information,” Huggins said. “We gave him all the information. We were very transparent with things.” 

Huggins has also cautioned McBride about the challenges associated with making an NBA roster after the draft. In the hypothetical situation where McBride is a late first round pick, he would be drafted by a playoff team. 

Yes, he’d make guaranteed money, but he might struggle to find playing time. 

“I think those things are things that guys have to take a really hard look at,” Huggins said. “Where am I gonna be in the draft? Who’s on the team that I’m potentially gonna get drafted by? The G-League’s a very real thing.” 

Even WVU great Jevon Carter spent time in the G-League during his rookie season. Carter is WVU’s most recent NBA Draft selection, chosen by the Grizzlies in the second round in 2018. 

“Now, you’re in the G-League, playing in Canton, Ohio, in front of 25 people. Then you go home and cut on the TV, and your [WVU] teammates are playing at Allen Fieldhouse in front of 16,000, or they’re playing in the Coliseum in front of 14,000,” Huggins said. “What price do you put on that? There’s a lot of things for a 19 or 20-year-old to think about.” 

But if McBride does leave WVU, Huggins has a replacement waiting in the wings. He thinks Malik Curry, a transfer guard from Old Dominion, is capable of filling that role.

“He’s really good at attacking the rim,” Huggins said. “Should Deuce not return, we need somebody who can put pressure on the rim.”

Huggins also noted that guard Sean McNeil has not informed WVU of his intentions to return for his senior season. McNeil was the first Mountaineer to enter the NBA Draft after the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. He finished fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points per game. 

The deadline for McBride and McNeil to finalize their draft decisions is July 7. The 2021 NBA Draft is July 29. 

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