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Talented Karl should bypass NBA, return to Broncos

When Coby Karl made himself eligible for the NBA Draft, even he insisted it was a trial run, a chance to test his mettle before returning for his senior season at Boise State.

Well, the trial run has become a marathon for Karl, who has worked out for at least a half-dozen NBA teams and participated in a pre-draft camp in Orlando.

The pace is hardly slowing down — even as Sunday's deadline to remove himself from the draft looms.

Earlier this week, Karl was in Cleveland to audition for the Cavaliers and a roster spot with LeBron James. He also stopped in Milwaukee doing his best to impress the Bucks to select him.

Come Sunday, all the professional talk and tryouts should end. Next week, Karl should be back in Boise, preparing for the upcoming season with his Bronco teammates.

Boise State fans — and coaches — can only hope Karl reaches the same conclusion.

"It was in our favor coming in, and he said nothing has changed, so I think it's still in our favor," Boise State head coach Greg Graham said Friday afternoon after speaking with Karl.

Karl is leaning on his father, NBA coaching veteran George Karl, to help guide him through the process, leaving Graham as a very interested bystander. Graham said father and son would make the decision about Coby's future this weekend.

And despite obvious concern, Graham continues to say all the right things.

"There's no question we'd like to have him back, but Coby has given us an awful lot in three years. And when guys hold their players back, that's wrong," Graham said. "If we can get enough players that are always leaving early, that's a good sign that we're recruiting the right guys. I'd be glad to have that problem."

But you'll excuse the Broncos head coach if his throat gets tighter by the minute as Sunday's 3 p.m. MDT deadline nears.

Karl, a 6-foot-4 guard, led the Broncos in nearly every category last season, including minutes, scoring average, assists, blocked shots, defensive rebounding, steals, field goals attempts and made, 3-pointers attempted and made and free throws attempted and made. He took every big shot.

That level of production and versatility is not easily replaced. And hopes that Boise State could challenge for a WAC title, already in trouble because of the return of two-time WAC player of the year Nick Fazekas to Nevada — would be severely damaged without Karl.

Many questioned, rightfully so, how Karl, who has not been a superstar at the collegiate level, could even consider jumping to professional basketball.

There are a few reasons.

Given his basketball IQ and skill level, Karl is more suited to be a complementary player than the go-to guy on a team. His well-rounded abilities should help Karl flourish as he is surrounded by better players, as evidenced by his solid numbers at the Orlando camp, a proving ground for non-lottery type prospects.

"The understanding of the game is a big thing with him. With better players spreading the floor, he knows how to rotate, how to move. He's very advanced for a college player," Graham said. "A lot of those things he won't have to learn. Plus, he's always played hard and is a competitor."

Karl even played the final months of the season after discovering that he had thyroid cancer, for which he underwent surgery in the offseason. Perhaps the bout with mortality has changed Karl's thinking, accelerating his plan to play professionally.

But there are plenty of reasons to believe Karl will not make the mistake of remaining in the draft.

No one is claiming Karl would be a first-round pick, which brings a guaranteed contract, or even get drafted at all. And George Karl has spoken publicly about his desire for Coby to return to college for his senior season.

The system allows for underclassmen to declare for the draft once without jeopardizing their eligibility — provided they don't sign with an agent.

So far, Karl has handled the situation perfectly.

He got several chances to compete against top college and international players in front of NBA scouts and personnel professionals, getting critical feedback and opening some eyes. Unlike many other juniors, Karl has been able to attend as many private workouts as possible without worrying about cost — and possibly putting his college eligibility in danger. When he goes through the process next year, the experience will be nothing but a positive.

But now it's time for Karl to finish this game right.

Time to notify the NBA that he's removing his name from draft consideration and time to get back to being a college basketball player.