Recently, in this space, I’ve been looking at the pro prospects of the Gonzaga seniors that have a chance of hearing their names called next month in the NBA Draft: Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo, and Micah Downs. There is one other Zag who may be on an NBA roster next fall though, and in fact, may go higher than any of the aforementioned players. That Zag is Austin Daye.
Daye, who will be a junior in the 2009-2010 season, declared for the NBA Draft a month ago, but did not sign an agent and thus has retained his NCAA eligibility. His decision to enter his name has been met with mixed reaction from Gonzaga fans. While some are happy to see Daye possibly advancing his career and bringing attention to the university, others think that he is leaving too soon.
One of the most heralded recruits to ever go to Spokane, Daye was a top 25 player coming out of high school. His father, Darren Daye, was a star at UCLA before playing five years in the NBA. That prestige also created grand expectations for the younger Daye in Spokane.
While he has put up great games, and good stretches, Daye has yet to turn into the star that many have been hoping/expecting he would be. Thus, his entry into this year’s draft came as a bit of a surprise. With a strong '09-10 campaign Daye could have easily worked his way into the first round, and possibly the lottery of the 2010 draft, but with the '09 class being “touted” as one of the weakest ever, Daye seems to have decided to strike while the iron is hot.
Assuming he stays in the draft, Daye will certainly turn heads during the remainder of the process. Standing at 6'10" with a prehistoric wingspan, Daye is exactly the type of athlete that teams fall in love with. The up-tempo style of Gonzaga’s offense has also developed Daye into a dangerous weapon in full court game.
His length also allows him an array of jumpers and hooks that are difficult to defend against. And, for a player his size, Daye, like many Zags, is an excellent shooter. With his feet set, he has the ability to hit from anywhere on the court, though his mechanics will need some work to gain consistency.
The biggest knock against Daye will be his frame. Though he is tall and long, Daye looks like he could blow away in a stiff wind. Unless he can put on quite a bit of weight, he will not be an effective inside player in the NBA. Even in the college game, Daye’s shot selection and drives into the lane were often altered and knocked off balance because he cannot absorb the contact.
Still, Daye will measure out as one of the most impressive prospects in the draft, and it is entirely possible that by the end of the process, if he chooses to stay in the draft, Daye could end up as a first round selection, and will go no later than the early-to-middle second round.
However, if Daye returned to the Zags next season and became the star of the team like many believe he could, he could find himself as a lottery selection in the 2010 NBA Draft. Either way, Daye will be on an NBA roster before too long.
How long is up to Daye now.