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Watford's Confidence Hasn't Wavered

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

June 18, 2013

Former Indiana University standout Christian Watford headlined the Pacers’ pre-draft workout on Tuesday, the team’s fourth group that has been made available to the media.

This foursome of Watford, Kenny Kadji, Trevor Mbakwe, and Romero Osby was particularly interesting because all four guys – normally six NBA hopefuls are brought in for each session – were four-year players in college and will all likely be taken in the second round.

Workouts Day Four Recap: Experienced Trio Ready to Contribute »

Watford’s name resonates with basketball fans for his game-winning buzzer-beater over Kentucky in December, 2011. The replay of his 3-pointer from the left arc was replayed almost daily on ESPN and he won an ESPY for it later that year. Now, after graduating from Indiana, Watford has turned his attention to the NBA and he’s hoping to hear his name called on June 27.

At Tuesday’s workout with the Pacers, and during each of his stops before draft night, Watford hasn’t worried about the knocks on his game – like his inconsistency, turnovers and defending big men – and has just tried to show teams what he can do.

“They’ve done a great job of watching everything I’ve done over my four years at Indiana,” Watford said after the on-court activity. “You don’t come home out here and try to overdo things. You just stick with what you’ve been doing and what got you here.”

Indiana is a possible landing spot for Watford, especially because of his sharp shooting – a key attribute the 2013 Pacers team was lacking. He made 48 percent of his 3-pointers last season and shot 81.8 percent at the free throw line during his four years.

He may not be listed on some mock drafts, but he certainly is on draft boards of teams around the league. One NBA scout said he expects Watford to be gone before No. 53, the Pacers' second round pick. But might he still be available and be selected by the Pacers, Watford would welcome the opportunity.

“I’ve been keeping up with these guys just from being in Bloomington my whole four years. I kind of know a lot about this team,” he said. “I would definitely love to come here and be a Pacer.”

Watford seriously considered darting for the draft after his junior year. However, after consulting with IU coach Tom Crean and listening to the opinions of front office decision-makers, he decided to stay in Bloomington for his final year of eligibility. In that additional year, on a team that held the No. 1 ranking in college basketball for more weeks than any other team, Watford improved his shooting and rebounding numbers while lowering his turnovers per game average.

“It definitely made me a lot tougher,” he said of his senior season. “I enjoyed the year we had, definitely. I don’t regret coming back at all. You learn some things along the way. You get way more mature.”

Since graduating in May with a degree in sports communication, Watford has worked out in Maryland with IU teammate Victor Oladipo, a highly touted guard who is expected to be drafted in the top five picks. Watford has also remained in touch with Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls, two more Hoosiers that are going through pre-draft workouts.

When standing by the 6-foot-9 Watford following his workout, he was noticeably more fit. Weighing in at 224 pounds, he said his weight hasn’t changed recently but he was more tone due his change in eating habits. He’s cut out a lot of the junk and fast food that he consumed daily as a college student.

Watford did not participate in the league’s May combine in Chicago. He has visited nine teams and said he has workouts scheduled for Utah, Minnesota, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

“I definitely feel I'm an NBA-caliber player and I definitely feel I can play in this league,” Watford said. “I’m very confident. That’s one thing that hasn’t wavered throughout this entire process.”

Come June 27, Watford will be home in Alabama with his family for one of the biggest days in his life. “I won’t watch it. Ain’t no way I’m going to be able to watch it.”

We’ll see about that.

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