2019 Draft Workouts: Carsen Edwards

May 21, 2019 - Purdue point guard Carsen Edwards speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.

Draft Workouts 190521 - Workout 2

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2019 Draft Workouts: Carsen Edwards

May 21, 2019 - Purdue point guard Carsen Edwards speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
May 21, 2019  |  01:52

2019 Draft Workouts: Derrik Smits

During the Pacers' second pre-draft workout, Butler center Derrik Smits -- the son of Pacers legend Rik Smits -- had the opportunity to show off his skills. Despite hurting his wrist during the workout, Smits was thankful for the opportunity and explained what areas of his game he's working on.
May 22, 2019  |  02:13

2019 Draft Workouts: Nicolas Claxton

Georgia center Nicolas Claxton spoke to Pacers.com about his pre-draft workout. He talked about the boost he's received after a strong combine performance in Chicago and what he believes he could bring to an NBA roster.
May 22, 2019  |  01:43

2019 Draft Workouts: Lamar Stevens

May 22, 2019 - Penn State guard Lamar Stevens speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
May 22, 2019  |  01:21

2019 Draft Workouts: C.J. Elleby

May 22, 2019 - Washington State forward C.J. Elleby speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
May 22, 2019  |  01:15

2019 Draft Workouts: Martin Krampelj

May 22, 2019 - Creighton forward Martin Krampelj speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
May 22, 2019  |  01:46

New Rules Beneficial for Underclassmen Seeking Feedback

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor

The Pacers held their first two pre-draft workouts on Tuesday. While the first workout featured a number of players likely to hear their name called on draft night, almost every player in the second workout could be back in school next year.

Of the six underclassmen in the second workout group on Tuesday, only Purdue All-American Carsen Edwards is fully committed to staying in the NBA Draft (and rightly so, as Edwards is a likely first-round pick).

The remaining five prospects — Georgia center Nicolas Claxton, Washington State forward C.J. Elleby, Creighton forward Martin Krampelj, Butler center Derrik Smits, and Penn State forward Lamar Stevens — all are taking advantage of new rules that allow them to test the waters while maintaining their eligibility (Edwards did the same thing a year ago before electing to return to Purdue).

For years, NCAA rules forced underclassmen to decide whether they wanted to enter the draft or return to school for another season in April, just shortly after the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament. In 2016, they pushed that deadline back to the end of May, allowing players to declare for the draft and take part in the pre-draft process (including team workouts and the NBA Draft Combine) to gather feedback from NBA teams and make a more informed decision on their future.

This year, another rule change has allowed underclassmen who declare for the draft to hire agents to help them in the pre-draft process, but still maintain their collegiate eligibility. Prospects have until May 29 to decide whether they want to remain in the draft or return to school.

2019 DRAFT CENTRAL: Complete Coverage at Pacers.com/Draft »

A record number of players are taking advantage of those rule changes this spring. 233 players declared for early entry to the NBA Draft this year, including 175 underclassmen and 58 international prospects. While only 60 players will hear their name called on draft night, more and more players are taking advantage of the opportunity to get feedback from NBA teams.

Smits, for example, is going to play for Butler next year as a graduate transfer from Valparaiso. But for him, the opportunity to work out for NBA teams can provide invaluable insight as he prepares for his final college season.

"It's huge," Smits said. "Obviously, I know what I need to work on, but it's big to hear from them what they think I need to work on, what I need to show next year, and maybe some changes that I need to make."

Some of the other players at Tuesday's workout haven't yet made their decision, but relish the opportunity to keep their options open as long as possible.

"I think it's great for a lot of guys, including me," Claxton said. "Just being able to go out there, see where you are in the draft, see where your stock is, and still have the option to go back to school."

Of the four undecided players at Tuesday's workout, Claxton is the prospect most likely to keep his name in the draft. Many mock drafts have the 6-11 center going in the second round, with a few bumping him up into the first round after a strong performance at last week's Combine.

Claxton averaged 3.9 points in limited minutes as a freshman at Georgia, but thrived in his sophomore season. He averaged 13 points and 8.6 rebounds last season for the Bulldogs, but his presence was most felt on the defensive end. Claxton's 2.53 blocks per game led the SEC and ranked ninth in the country and he also tallied 1.1 steals per contest.

While almost every consensus first-round pick elected to sit out of scrimmages at the Combine in Chicago, Claxton elected to play and showed off his defensive prowess. In his first scrimmage, he scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting and racked up seven blocks in just 20:25. In his second scrimmage, he tallied four blocks and four steals.

"I boosted my stock big time, definitely," Claxton said. "Chicago helped me out. That was our plan all along. A lot of guys decided not to play, but me, I looked at it as an opportunity to go out there and show what I can do."

Offensively, Claxton has potential to develop into a productive player. Former Indiana coach Tom Crean took over at Georgia last fall and enabled Claxton to do a lot more offensively than most college centers. He handled the ball a lot and attempted 64 3-pointers, though he only converted 28.1 percent of them.

"I'm extremely grateful for Coach Crean," Claxton said. "He came in and he saw something in me when we first started working. He gave me that freedom to go out there and play my game."

NBA scouts will want to see Claxton continue his development offensively and show more consistency with his shot, but it's easy to see how his skill set and potential could convince an NBA team to take a chance on him.

Nicolas Claxton

Georgia center Nicolas Claxton had 11 blocks and four steals in two games at the NBA Draft Combine. (Photo Credit: @Pacers)

Stevens has hired an agent, but is still leaving the door open to a return to Penn State.

"I'm completely in, but I still have the option to go back to school," he said Tuesday.

The 6-8 forward put up big numbers for the Nittany Lions, averaging 19.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a junior. He was productive against the high-level competition he faced in the Big Ten and had some standout performances, like his 26-point, 12-rebound outing in an upset win over sixth-ranked Michigan on Feb. 12.

"Being in such a great league, going against great coaches, it prepares you for stuff like this (pre-draft process)," Stevens said.

But while Stevens was productive in college, he was inefficient, attempting 17 shots per game and converting at just a 42.2 percent clip, and has limited range as a shooter, hitting just 22 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.

Elleby, a 6-6 forward, showed some promise as a freshman at Washington State. He averaged 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3 assists per game and had a .414 3-point percentage.

But while Elleby had a good individual season, the Cougars struggled, going just 4-14 in Pac-12 play. Head coach Ernie Kent was fired in March, an event that may have influenced Elleby's decision to test the draft waters.

Elleby is focusing on being more locked in defensively, something he felt he was able to showcase at Tuesday's workout.

"I'm a versatile player and I can guard 1-4," Elleby said. "I think I could show that well in this because it was bigs and guards."

Krampelj is a 6-9 forward originally from Slovenia coming off a productive junior season at Creighton, where he played for Greg McDermott, the father of Pacers forward Doug McDermott.

He averaged 13.5 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent from the field last season for the Bluejays.

"I can run the floor," Krampelj said when asked to describe the strengths of his game. "I can shoot the ball well. I can play pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll. I can guard the little guys, too."

Already 24 years old, Krampelj is unlikely to be drafted, but could still consider foregoing his final year of collegiate eligibility to play professionally in Europe.

His career is a testament to perseverance. Krampelj has torn his ACL three times in his career. He tore his left ACL in 2013, did the same to his right ACL early into his first year at Creighton, and then tore his left ACL for a second time playing against Seton Hall on Jan. 17, 2018.

Each time, he fought through the months-long rehabilitation process to get back on the court. He thankfully enjoyed a healthy season last year, starting 35 games for Creighton.

"Just basketball, man," Krampelj said when asked what kept him motivated through adversity. "I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's a dream come true for me for sure to play basketball."


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