Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jimmy Baron & Weyinmi Efejuku: Working Hard For The NBA Draft

Looks like URI's Jimmy Baron and PC's Weyinmi Efejuku are still hoping to hear their names called in the NBA Draft, via ProJo Sports:

It only takes one.

That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy driving both Jimmy Baron and Weyinmi Efejuku as they try to work themselves onto the radar screens of teams leading up to the NBA Draft.

Baron and Efejuku have signed with agents and are working out with other elite college players as they look to improve their skills and shine in workout sessions with pro teams. Right now neither player is popping up on the numerous mock drafts, but they both hold out hope that will change leading up to the June 25 selections.

"I believe it's possible," said Efejuku, the leading scorer (15.7 ppg) at Providence College in 2009. "Getting into the draft or playing for a (NBA) team in a summer league as a free agent is my primary focus."

Efejuku graduated from PC on May 18 and is spending a few days with his mother at her home in Atlanta. He has signed with an agent, Merle Scott of United Worldwide Sports, and will travel to Chicago next week to train at the ATTACK Athletics Training Center. That's the gym the NBA is currently running its pre-draft camp at this week.

Neither Efejuku or Baron was among the 52 players invited to the NBA's official combine. Unlike previous years, those players will not play 5-on-5 games. Instead they'll be measured and weighed and be available for interviews or private workouts, somewhat similar to the NFL's combine in Indianapolis.

Both Efejuku and Baron have already worked out for some NBA teams. Efejuku spent last Friday in Washington with the Wizards along with Villanova's Dwayne Anderson and Gonzaga's Micah Downs. He mentioned prospective dates with the Celtics, Trailblazers and Thunder coming up in June.

"The teams say I need to improve my ballhandling in the fullcourt, just in order to beat pressure," he said. "Everyone likes my speed and athleticism and shooting but I need to keep my conditioning up and hit more shots in the mid-range game."

Baron remains in Santa Monica, Cal., where he's working with other clients of the Wasserman Media Group, one of the largest agent firms in the business. WMG held a workout last Friday to showcase their 2009 draft clients, a group that includes Baron, James Johnson (Wake Forest), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), DaJuan Summers (Georgetown), K.C. Rivers (Clemson), Ryan Ayers (Notre Dame) and Josh Shipp (UCLA). Several teams, including Sacramento, Charlotte, Portland, Toronto, Detroit and the Clippers and Lakers, attended.

Johnson and Henderson are considered potential lottery picks and certain first-rounders. Ellington and Summers are also hearing first-round buzz.

"Jimmy shot the ball well, as usual, and a lot of teams saw him," said Rob McClanahan, the Cranston native and workout guru who with WMG's basketball clients.

The other players most prominently mentioned as likely top 10 picks include Blake Griffin (Oklahoma State), Hasheem Thabeet (UConn), guard Ricky Rubio (Spain), Jordan Hill (Arizona), James Harden (Arizona State), Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Jrue Holiday (UCLA), Tyreke Evans (Memphis) and Brandon Jennings, a top prep senior in 2008 who spent the 2008-09 season playing in Italy.

Both Efejuku and Baron will be invited to group workouts over the next month where teams will need additional players to perform around the bigger names available in the draft. While not the featured performers, those are additional opportunities for both players to open some eyes. One team both players want to be seen by is Portland. The Blazers own the rights to four second-round picks, as well as one (24th overall) in the first round.

"The feedback we're getting has been good and this is the top priority right now," said Efejuku. "If (getting drafted) doesn't happen, there's the summer leagues and then, maybe, a shot in Europe. But playing in the NBA is the primary focus."

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