By Nick Veronica
Canisius’ Billy Baron and UB’s Javon McCrea have spent the last month flying across the country, giving workouts to as many NBA teams as possible.
If either player was able to impress a club, he’ll find out tonight during the NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN).
While the most likely scenario is that both players go undrafted, that’s not the end of the road for either of their professional dreams. Both Baron and McCrea, the MAAC and MAC players of the year, respectively, could get a look in the NBA Summer League, where they’d have additional opportunities to prove they can play at the next level.
“I know I made a pretty good impression on a few teams so we’ll just leave it up to that,” Baron said in a recent interview with Big 4 Talk’s Johnathan Snyder. “If I don’t get drafted, it’s not everything in the world,” Baron added. “There are many routes to the NBA, it’s not just on Thursday.”
“With the NBA, you never know what’s gonna happen,” McCrea told WGRZ. “I hope my name’s called, and if not, I just have to work harder throughout the summer to make sure I’m playing in November.”
Baron worked out for 10 teams — one-third of the league — prior to the draft (Chicago, Atlanta, Utah, Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, San Antonio and Detroit), while McCrea auditioned for seven (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Toronto, Memphis and Philadelphia) after a good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, which Baron opted not to attend.
McCrea was linked to the Philadelphia 76ers late in a recent ESPN mock draft, if you’re looking for a guess on where he might end up. (You have to be an Insider to see the full mock, but Hustle Belt wrote about it here.) Philadelphia has an absurd five second-round draft picks, so I’m guessing that would make them less hesitant to go off the board a bit for a player like McCrea.
Baron’s most likely destination, if you’re trying to connect the dots, is the Detroit Pistons. Their general manager, Jeff Bower, coached at Marist last year and is a big fan of Baron’s game. Their coach, Stan Van Gundy, is a former Canisius assistant and a graduate of Brockport. He visited campus two years ago and met with Baron and the team.
(Above: Stan Van Gundy at Canisius)
If you’re thinking these two have forgotten about Canisius now that they’re in the pros, think again. Jordan Heath worked out with the Pistons Wednesday and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to Summer League. If he’s on their radar, you can bet Baron is too.
Detroit only has one draft pick (38th overall), so I don’t see them using it on Baron, but they could go after him later.
Baron’s agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group, is a former Chicago Bulls point guard who also represents Derek Rose (Chicago), Al Horford (Atlanta), JaVale McGee (Denver), Gerald Henderson (Charlotte), Omer Asik (traded from Houston to New Orleans Wednesday night), Jason Terry (Sacramento) and several others.
McCrea’s agent, Mike Kneisley of The Neustadt Group, also represents Shelvin Mack of Atlanta and Darius Miller of New Orleans.
If Baron made it to the NBA, he would be the first Canisius player in the league since Mike Smrek retired in 1992. McCrea could become just the second UB player to make the NBA (Sam Pellom, 1979-83) and the school’s first draft pick. The only Big Four player currently in the NBA is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, who was selected 19th overall by Orlando in 2012.