Men's Basketball

Mark Story: Morehead anxiously awaiting Faried's decision

If you are Kentucky, John Wall turns pro early, you land a commitment from the equally heralded Brandon Knight.

DeMarcus Cousins enters the draft, you sign Enes Kanter.

At regal hoops outpost UK, you lose five players early to the NBA, you still expect to field a top-20 team.

However, if you exist at the Morehead State level of the college basketball food chain, things are a little different. At MSU, if Kenneth Faried turns professional with remaining eligibility, then you've "lost a player that is a-once-every-20-or-25-years player at our school," said MSU Coach Donnie Tyndall Thursday afternoon.

So as the hours tick down toward the May 8 deadline for college underclassmen to either remove their names from the NBA Draft or stay in, Tyndall waits on the proverbial pins and needles for the final word from his junior post man.

Asked how much sleep he's getting this week, Tyndall laughed.

"None," he said. "You should see the bags under my eyes."

If Faried, the bouncy 6-foot-7 rebounder deluxe, decides to use his final year of college eligibility at Morehead, Tyndall and the Eagles will have a bona fide chance in 2011 to make their second NCAA Tournament appearance in the past three seasons.

Defending OVC champion "Murray (State) will be picked No. 1," Tyndall said. "With Kenneth, we should be picked a real close No. 2 and have a really good chance of making it back to the NCAAs."

Without the OVC's reigning Player of the Year, "we'll probably be picked third or fourth in our league," Tyndall said. "Our goals wouldn't change, but we'd need a whole lot more to go right without Kenneth."

In the days leading up to D-Day (draft decision day), Faried has been in Morehead finishing the current academic semester.

Tyndall said the Newark, N.J., product has worked out for the Pacers and the Thunder and done phone interviews with several other teams, including the Nets and Pistons.

Faried has to be one of the most difficult players on NBA draft boards to evaluate.

His calling cards are his abundant athleticism and the energy with which he applies it on the basketball court. Faried (16.9 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 steals) recorded a whopping 25 double-doubles this past season as a junior for Morehead (24-11).

Yet Faried's offensive repertoire does not presently include much beyond dunks, follow shots and layups.

The consensus from NBA teams, Tyndall said, is that Faried must add substantial strength and bulk to try to make his way in the league exclusively as an undersized power forward.

Or he has to "develop a 17-foot jump shot and show that he can guard three different positions, the two, the three, the four," Tyndall said.

Conventional wisdom holds that it is a mistake for a player to give up remaining college eligibility if one is not an automatic first-round pick, which means a guaranteed NBA contract.

For what this is worth, I made my way through five NBA mock drafts Thursday. None had Faried listed as a first-round pick. Three had him in the second round, two not being drafted at all.

The mock draft phenomenon has been an eye-opener for Tyndall. The Morehead coach said a specific NBA team visited Faried earlier this week to evaluate him.

Faried was told by the team, the MSU coach reported, that they liked aspects of his game, but there was no chance they would pick him in the first round and were uncertain even if they would take him in the second.

Only days later, a very prominent NBA analyst on a national-level sports Web site had that exact team picking Faried in the first round.

"It's crazy," Tyndall said. "A kid sees that and puts more stock in it than what the team itself told him."

So the Morehead coach waits for Faried's final word, which he expects to hear at any time.

"If Kenneth stays, we'll try to use his last year to build on his accolades in our school's history and help him improve his game for next year's draft," Tyndall said. "And if he goes, I'll just feel very fortunate to have gotten to coach a player like him for three years and we'll wish him well going forward."

Suffice to say, Tyndall is hoping for the former outcome.

Either way, the coach should soon at least be able to get some sleep.