ROSEMONT, Ill. — During the last two springs, 47 college basketball players who weren’t invited to the NBA draft combine elected to test their stock and stay in the draft pool anyway. Not one heard their name called.
Your serve, Ethan Happ. Your serve.
“He’s still going,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said at the Big Ten spring athletic director meetings when asked about his star forward, who declared for the draft after the regular season ended but hasn’t hired an agent.
“That’s one benefit, I guess, of the ability to go through all this, is he can gather all the information.”
Still, it’s getting to be you-know-what cuttin’ time for the 6-foot-10 Happ, the Badgers star who averaged 17.9 points and 8 rebounds for Wisconsin last winter as a redshirt junior.
The Illinois native said immediately after the season ended at the Big Ten Tournament in New York that he planned to return to school if he wasn’t projected to be taken in the first round. That he’d take one more year in Madison over a season in the G League, given a choice.
#Badgers Happ also shot down idea of playing in G League. Believes he could develop his game better at UW.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) March 2, 2018
Then again, the NBA might well be making that choice for him.
You won’t find Happ’s name on any major media outlet’s first-round mocks. And when the NBA announced the 69 players invited to the May 16-20 combine in Chicago, No. 22 wasn’t on the list.
Which means this is a big two weeks, a pivotal fortnight. Players who’ve declared for the NBA but who haven’t done the agent thing have until May 30 to withdraw their names from the pool and maintain their collegiate eligibility.
Until then, Gard insists, the information-gathering train chugs merrily along.
“I think we’re going to do a couple more workouts over the next couple of weeks,” Gard said of Happ, who’s already reportedly worked out for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) May 8, 2018
On the surface, there’s a lot to like at the next level: The poise, the passing, the precision in the paint, to name but a few tools in the shed. But Happ also is neither fast on his feet nor a classic rim-protector, which means the NBA likely will try to cast No. 22 as a stretch 4 or a big 3.
As a Badgers standout, Happ is a lifetime .091 shooter from beyond the arc (1 for 11) and a .564 shooter from the free-throw stripe. Which means it’s not a role that he seems particularly well-suited to play, given the body of evidence to this point.
Or lack thereof.
Samesies 100%. Happ isn't going anywhere, he can't shoot and is a tweener! He'll be back. I cannot wait for next year. Happ needs to spend all day every day at the charity stripe and on a mid-range jumper if he has NBA ambitions.
— Dan Bucholtz (@danbucholtz) March 2, 2018
Ethan Happ looks good right now against the double team, finding the open man, but he needs to improve his jumper to be successful in NBA.
— Carson (@captn_kirkey) February 26, 2017
Probably not accurate on my part to call it a jump shot. Either way, it's the first hit outside the paint for Happ. pic.twitter.com/WH8C2yxFTZ
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) December 15, 2016
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has been stockpiling good young guards — Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King are all at or ahead of their rehabilitation schedule, Gard confirmed — the way William Randolph Hearst used to stockpile sculptures. Bucky’s a sneaky, sexy pick to get right back onto that March horse and ride the sucker into Bracketville again.
What’s the end game?
Another Sweet 16? Or Fort Wayne in February?
“We work hand-in-hand,” Gard said. “I try to provide him with all of the information I can get. He’s giving me the feedback he gets from specific teams.”
As feedback goes, we’d probably refer you back to that 47-for-47 stat in the first paragraph. Numbers don’t lie. And when it comes to the NBA, actions speak louder than words any stinking day of the week.