NBA Draft hopefuls descended upon Chicago this week seeking to boost their pro stock.
Twelve Big Ten standouts, including Nebraska freshman Bryce McGowens, joined 71 other invitees at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine which ran Wednesday through Sunday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
The combine features measurements, athletic testing, drills, five-on-five play and interviews for prospective draftees. McGowens, the one-and-done Husker, took part in everything but the five-on-five play.
McGowens measured in at 6-foot-6.5 in shoes (6-foot-5.25 without) and 181.2 pounds with a 6-foot-8.75 wingspan and an 8-foot-7.5 standing reach. He also measured hands that are 8.75 inches long and 9.5 inches wide.
McGowens was around 165 pounds when he first set foot on campus in Lincoln. He still has work to do to get where he needs to be to hold his own at the professional level, but cracking 180 pounds is certainly progress. The plus-3.5-inch wingspan is decent but a little surprising; perhaps it was his slight frame playing tricks on my eyes, but I thought his wingspan would be longer.
As for the athletic testing, McGowens tested middle of the pack among players labeled shooting guards or small forwards. He measured a 29.5-inch standing vertical (14th among 28 shooting guards and small forwards) and a 34-inch max vertical (20th). He ran an 11.12-second lane agility drill (16th), a 3.16-second shuttle run (15th) and a 3.27-second three-quarters-court sprint (16th).
The NBA website doesn’t have complete results from the shooting drills, but here’s footage of McGowens participating in the 3-point star drill.
Bryce McGowens movement shooting. He’s the headliner for Roc Nation’s pro day tonight. pic.twitter.com/LNeazzRrGR
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) May 19, 2022
McGowens opted out of the five-on-five scrimmaging, but he did headline the Roc Nation Pro Day in Chicago, working out for a collection of scouts up in Chicago instead.
Footage of Bryce McGowens from the Roc Nation Pro Day at the NBA Combine. The silky smooth wing from Nebraska showed his high skill level, shot-making ability and improving frame. pic.twitter.com/7BxWNkbyun
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 19, 2022
From what I’ve seen, I’m not sure McGowens moved the needle for his stock one way or the other with the on-court work, but the interviews can be as valuable or more so and he participated in several of those, including one with the Philadelphia 76ers.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) May 20, 2022
Eleven other Big Ten players got the call to attend the combine: Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Michigan’s Moussa Diabate, Michigan State’s Max Christie, Ohio State’s Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell, Purdue’s Trevion Williams and Jaden Ivey, Rutgers’ Ron Harper Jr. and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis. In total, 10 of the 14 teams from the Big Ten had at least one combine representative.
Ivey and Murray are both potential top-five picks and didn’t even participate in the measurements. Neither did Jackson-Davis, who announced on Friday that he is withdrawing from the draft and will return to Indiana for another season.
In addition to those three, Davis—a potential lottery pick—also opted out of the athletic testing while the other eight participated.
Only four Big Ten players participated in the 5-on-5 scrimmaging—Cockburn, Diabate, Harper and Williams.
The 7-foot, 293-pound Cockburn dominated the boards, grabbing 24 rebounds (including 13 on offense) in 52 minutes on the court in two scrimmages. He scored efficiently in the second game but struggled in the first, scoring 30 points on 12-of-22 from the field and 6-of-10 from the foul line overall.
Williams also did a lot of things well, grabbing 23 rebounds and dishing out 15 assists in 56 minutes, but he struggled to put the ball in the basket, totaling 18 points on 6-of-24 shooting. Williams’ chance to make the league definitely lies with his playmaking ability at his size (6-foot-8.75 and 264.6 pounds).
Harper struggled for the most part overall, though a strong season of shooting the ball should give him a chance. Diabate struggled in the first scrimmage but notched a double-double in the second, and he tested very well athletically which could push the former 5-star recruit and potential one-and-done prospect over the edge into staying in the draft.
Overall, of the 83 players invited, only 61 participated in the measurements, 51 in the athletic testing and 32 in the five-on-five scrimmages.
Christie didn’t participate in the scrimmages but did announce that he is staying in the draft after spending one up and down season in East Lansing.
Ivey, Murray, Davis, Branham, Christie, Liddell and McGowens all look to be potential first-round picks out of the Big Ten, with the first four having a chance to go in the lottery.
While Ivey didn’t participate in any of the on-court events, the über athletic Boilermaker did deliver this gem of a quote during interviews:
Jaden Ivey just referred to his first step burst as the “Baja Blast”.
— Derek Murray (@DMurrayHoops) May 19, 2022
Up next is the June 1 deadline for players to withdraw from the draft and retain collegiate eligibility. Prospects that choose to remain in the draft will have the opportunity to continue participating in workouts with teams. The draft will take place on June 23.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.