Next chapter: Uzoh, Jordan prepare for possible NBA futures
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Thursday, June 03, 2010
6/03/10 at 9:55 AM
The final horn in Tulsa's NIT loss at Kent State did not only signal an end to the basketball season.
It marked the start toward the professional careers for Tulsa's Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh.
Three weeks from today, their futures will be determined when the NBA draft is held in New York City. It's likely Jordan will get his name called, while Uzoh has spent recent weeks getting invitation-only workouts by different teams to prove he is worthy of being selected.
It has been 11 years since a TU basketball player was drafted. Michael Ruffin was picked by the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 1999 draft. The program's last first-round pick came in 1985, when the Houston Rockets selected Steve Harris.
That could change on June 24, when NBA teams will make their picks. A hectic three weeks still remain after a whirlwind few months that has mixed intense training in Los Angeles and tough academics at TU.
"Since that last game at Kent, I had to heal quickly because one chapter ended and another one began," Uzoh said.
The best friends signed with BDA Sports Management, a Los Angeles-based agency that's preparing them for the draft. They moved to California — rooming together in downtown L.A. — and shuttled back and forth to Tulsa periodically for classes needed for May's graduation.
"It was definitely a challenge in staying committed to both," Uzoh said. "My dad always told me to keep (basketball and academics) one and the same."
Uzoh and Jordan plotted a perfect academic blueprint with coaches and advisers before their junior season, keeping their professional goals in mind.
Both earned exercise sports science degrees, giving the TU basketball program a 12-for-12 graduation rate for players who exhausted their eligibility in the past five years.
The players have taken different paths in the months leading into the NBA draft.
Jordan hasn't been invited to work out in front of many teams — Detroit, Minnesota and a stop at Sacramento this weekend — but did take part in the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He didn't get to do much after straining a quad muscle.
"It was good to have interviews and meet with (general managers) and different coaches," Jordan said. "I showed some stuff before I got injured. I'm OK."
Uzoh is working out for his hometown San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. It is his sixth tryout in the past few weeks. He's also had stops in Toronto, Houston, New York, Detroit, Miami, Oklahoma City and took part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, one of two NBA-affiliated, pre-draft events.
"I think I've been solid," Uzoh said. "I've done a good job overall and every place that I've (gone), I definitely feel like I've done a lot of things that they've liked."
Not much can be read into their different paths, said Ryan Blake, the NBA's assistant director of scouting.
"You don't have to market yourself," Blake said. "The teams know the players well and both Uzoh and Jordan have been evaluated thoroughly. If they show the teams what hard work is and let the cards fall where they may, then they have done what they can."
The pair was asked if they realize a life-altering day could come in three weeks.
"It's still building up," Jordan said. "A week from the draft, it will probably hit me."
"These are the most important weeks," said Uzoh, who may be invited for a couple more late tryouts. "I have to have that demeanor and mindset that I'm going to go out and put my best foot forward."
Thoughts on draft prospects for TU tandem
Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh
are trying to become the first
Tulsa basketball players to be
selected in the same NBA draft
since the league dropped to
two rounds in 1989.
Ryan Blake, the NBA’s assistant
director of scouting, gave
his thoughts on Wednesday.
Blake on Jordan: “Jerome
Jordan would be viewed as
a late first-round to secondround
pick. He has the ability
to stick with a team because
of his continuing progress and
upside. remember, he hasn’t
been playing that long, so his
age and upside are factors that
will draw attention."
Blake on Uzoh: “Whether
or not Uzoh makes it as a
drafted player or not, he will
be coveted for NBA Summer
League teams. I feel he has
the potential to become a true
point guard. He holds the true
intangibles that make up a
player that could come off the
bench: Leadership, speed, passing,
high basketball IQ."
6 p.m. June 24 • Madison Square
Garden, new York • Two rounds
Eric Bailey 581-8391
STEPHEN HOLMAN/Tulsa World file; photo illustration
TU basketball players Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan, shown during TU graduation in May, are rooming together in Los Angeles and working toward their NBA dreams. SHANE BEVEL/Courtesy University of Tulsa
Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan celebrate on the bench at the end of the Loyola Marymount game last season. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World