By CHIP CIRILLO
Darius Garland might hear his name called earlier than any other former Brentwood Academy player in the NBA Draft on June 20.
Garland is projected to be selected between fourth and seventh in several mock drafts.
Former BA star Brandan Wright was drafted eighth out of North Carolina in 2007 and David Harrison went 29th out of Colorado in 2004.
“We’ve got three McDonald’s All-Americans,” Eagles coach Hubie Smith said. “We’ve got a McDonald’s All-American wall now (at BA). It’s got David Harrison, Brandan Wright and Darius’ McDonald’s jersey up there and a little thing written about each one of them. They just got it up a few weeks ago.”
Mock drafts/First round/Darius Garland
NBA.com, fourth, Lakers
ESPN, fourth, Lakers
CBS Sports, sixth, Suns
Bleacher Report, seventh, Bulls
NBA.net, fifth, Cavaliers
Smith, his wife and several BA coaches will be at the draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They will go to a dinner for Garland the night before the draft.
“Oh, man, it will be great,” said Smith, his voice cracking with emotion. “I can’t wait to see his face when they call his name out and hug his dad because it will be just be an awesome experience.”
Garland’s father, Winston, is a BA assistant coach who played in the NBA for seven seasons between 1987-95 at point guard.
Garland left the NBA Draft Combine early in May, fueling speculation that he had received a promise from a team in the lottery.
He signed in February with Klutch Sports Group, a sports agency whose clients include Lakers superstar LeBron James.
“LeBron’s agent is Rich Paul and that’s Darius’ agent,” Smith said. “Darius is living in L.A., so he met LeBron through his agent. And now the Lakers have the fourth pick, so LeBron actually watched him work out not too long ago.”
A social media photo showed Garland watching James’ son, Bronny, at his basketball game with James and Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon on May 25.
“(Darius) knows LeBron is my favorite player and he sent me an autographed jersey framed of LeBron,” Smith said. “I told him that is super cool, but he’ll move to number two after June 20 because you’ll move to number one. I told him I wanted his jersey right after he got drafted so I could put it above LeBron’s. Darius and LeBron, that would be kind of cool.”
There has been a lot of speculation that the Lakers or Suns will draft the 6-foot-2 point guard from Vanderbilt.
“I think it’s really hard to know,” Smith said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of scouts. I think there are a lot of people interested, but at the 11th hour and 59th minute they’re all going to do what’s best for them.”
A last-minute trade of the Lakers’ draft pick for a more experienced player is another possibility.
“I think the Lakers are definitely interested in him,” Smith said. “I’m sure Phoenix and Chicago are really interested in him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cleveland is really interested in him.”
Garland moved to Los Angeles in late January or early February.
“His agent has him set up at a workout place there and he’s on an NBA training table,” Smith said. “He’s rehabbing. He’s right at 100 percent recovered. They’re taking their time and building his knee up. He’s raring and ready to go, I know.”
A torn meniscus ended Garland’s season early in the fifth game of his freshman season at Vanderbilt. He’s bulked up to 190 pounds, an increase of 15 pounds to his weight with the Commodores.
Smith believes Garland will be taken in the four to seven slot, which pays between $4.4-5.9 million for a first-year salary according to the NBA Rookie Scale. First-round picks can sign for as much as 120% and as little as 80% of the rookie scale.
“I think he’s pretty open and happy to go anywhere, anybody that wants him,” Smith said.
The veteran BA coach has been spending a lot of time talking to NBA scouts eager to learn about his three-time Mr. Basketball.
“I spent two or three hours with an L.A. Lakers scout (Monday, June 3),” Smith said. “He flew down. Talked to the Bulls scout for over an hour. Phoenix was one of the first people I talked to way back when he declared for the draft. Talked to somebody from Cleveland back a few months ago. … And the Wizards.”
Smith said he’s talked to all the teams that are looking for point guards.
“They’re doing their homework because they want to have high-character kids and I said, ‘Well, you’re not going to find anybody that’s more high character than Darius. He’s a great kid. You’ll love him being a part of your team and organization,’ “Smith said.
Garland is likely to play in the NBA Summer League from July 5-15 in Las Vegas.
He averaged 16.2 points and shot 47.8 percent from 3-point range for the Commodores.
Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey described Garland as a “lottery-type” talent during Vanderbilt’s season-opening win over the Eagles in November.
“I told Garland in the handshake line afterwards that at my time at Wake Forest I coached three pro point guards and I said, ‘Man, you’re right there.’ Kelsey told The Associated Press after the game. “Garland has a special burst. He’s like a Ferrari or a Maserati. He can go from 0 to 100 in a split second. He just owns the game.”
Garland erupted for a career-high 33 points in a win over Liberty, one game before the knee injury ended his season.
It was the second-most points ever scored by a Vanderbilt freshman, trailing only the 34 scored by Mike Rhodes against Virginia Tech in 1977.
“He’s as good as I’ve seen in a while,” Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, a former Virginia assistant, told the AP afterward. “He won’t be around long. He’s really special.”
Garland hit 12 of 18 from the floor, including five 3-pointers. He shot 53.7 percent from the floor during his short season.
“Darius can take over a game,” McKay told the AP. “He has the ability to affect the game without scoring a point, but also can take over from an aggressive scoring standpoint into the teeth of a lot of defenses and he did that against us.”
Photo from Vanderbilt Athletics.