Indiana freshman forward Noah Vonleh is reportedly "leaning strongly" toward entering the 2014 NBA draft.
Sources indicated as much to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, and they also said Vonleh's camp has been talking to a few prominent NBA agents.
Yahoo sources: Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh leaning strongly toward entering the June NBA Draft. http://t.co/n7H1Fo7VMb— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) March 16, 2014
Shortly after Wojnarowski broke the news on Twitter, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders confirmed the Yahoo report and revealed that multiple sources said he's as good as gone:
I can confirm @WojYahooNBA's tweet about Noah Vonleh leaning toward entering the NBA Draft. Multiple sources have said he'll leave school.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 16, 2014
The news doesn't come as a major shock, considering the 6'10" forward has been impressing scouts and upping his draft value all season.
Sporting a massive 7'4" wingspan and a sturdy 240-pound frame, the 18-year-old Haverhill, Mass., native dominated the Big Ten in 2013-14. Vonleh led the conference in rebounds (9.0 per game) and notched 10 double-doubles for the Hoosiers.
He's highly valued among NBA scouts due to his long-term potential. A soft shooting touch and promising ball-handling skills could make him a dangerous stretch 4 or even a combo forward as a pro.
Due to his star potential, he could land as high as No. 5 in June, and most projections have him listed no later than 10th.
It may take a while for him to reach that stardom, however, and one NBA general manager told Yahoo Sports that he'll likely play a fair chunk of 2014-15 in the NBA D-League, per Wojnarowski: "He'll spend a lot of time in the D-League next year. He's nowhere near ready to play, but there's no doubt he's got great potential, along with very good character."
After his Indiana squad bowed out early in the Big Ten tournament, it will be interesting to see how he plays in a potential NIT tournament run. Inflammation in his foot bothered him late in the regular season, so we'll see if he can stay healthy and maintain his draft stock.
Plenty of young prospects have entered the draft early over the past few years, with mixed results.
Raw, unpolished players like Fab Melo are cautionary tales, as professional hoops can be overwhelming for some if they leave college too soon. Meanwhile, teenagers such as Kyrie Irving have developed into hugely productive NBA standouts.
With proper preparation and a strong environment, Vonleh should do just fine. In a few short months, his NBA career will be underway.