Try as he may not to hear it, James Webb III is well aware of the doubts many have about his likelihood to be selected during the NBA Draft on June 23.
Webb opted to leave Boise State on March 27 with one year of eligibility remaining, then jumped in headfirst 10 days later by signing with an agent. However, he is not on the 63-man list for next week’s NBA Combine. Instead, he’s one of a dozen or so players on the alternate list.
“I’m not worried about the negativity, anything like that,” Webb said Saturday. “I’ve been doubted a lot, but here I am. There’s no regrets. I’m confident anyone’s opinion of me coming out early will be changed the day of the draft.”
When he decided to pursue his NBA dream, Webb knew he would be in a similar spot: The 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward had to impress in workouts, where he could show the athleticism he used to be one of the Mountain West’s premier players the past two seasons.
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Webb has workouts set up with the Mavericks, Bucks, Hawks, Suns, Celtics and Wizards, with more opportunities likely to arise.
“Whether I do or don’t make the combine, I’m not thinking a lot about that because of what I have set up,” Webb said. “I don’t think it would change my draft stock a ton if I went or didn’t.”
Thirty-nine of the 60 players picked in the 2015 Draft took part in the combine, and four of the 21 who did not were top-10 picks. The odds seem stacked against Webb, though his athleticism is the sort that can shine in workouts. He has spent most of the past two months working out in Miami alongside players such as Miami’s Angel Rodriguez and North Carolina State’s Cat Barber. Boise State coach Leon Rice said he expects Webb to thrive as a pro, noting it may not be “a straight line” to the NBA.
“He’s going to end up having a great career because he’s working really hard at it. He’s got the ability,” Rice said. “We’ve seen how much he’s grown every year he’s been here, and if he continues that growth, he’ll have a long career.”
Webb said he’s heard the criticism, “that he’s going to the D-League or Europe.” But he also was quick to say, “You have first-rounders in the D-League, but second-rounders or undrafted guys make a killing.”
He knows the feeling of people asking, “Why is he here?” Last summer at the Nike Basketball Academy and Adidas Nations camps, which pulled in the top college talent, Webb was one of the top performers despite his unique pedigree.
“Guys would introduce themselves at lunch, you hear ‘North Carolina, UConn, Syracuse,’ and I say ‘Boise State,’ which got some weird looks,” Webb said. “Coming from Boise State, it’s known for football. I was going to have to make a name for myself either way.”
Webb is hoping to be the school’s first draft pick since 1999 (Roberto Bergersen, Atlanta, No. 52). He was back in town this week cleaning out his things, among them about 130 pairs of shoes. Some national basketball reporters said Webb would have been one of the top graduate transfers on the market if he opted to stay. Webb could have given himself a heavy workload this summer and graduated, but he said transferring somewhere else was not an option.
“I was going to use all of my (eligibility) here if I came back,” Webb said. “I would’ve had to get acquainted with new people, new coaches, new school, prove myself once again. I like it in Boise. The fans are loyal here. There wouldn’t have been a point. I would’ve felt like a traitor. And if people don’t like the decision I made (last month), they really wouldn’t have liked that.”
A total of 117 players were listed as early entrants in the draft pool, but most have not signed with agents. A new NCAA rule allows players to return to school by May 25 if they haven’t signed with an agent. About a dozen players invited to the combine still have not signed with an agent. Webb potentially could have had that option, but he’s happy with the big choices behind him.
“It’s let me focus, not worry about another decision I have to make,” Webb said. “I can move forward, and I’m confident it’ll work out.”