Chicago • That day in January changed things for Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Colorado Buffaloes were ranked 15th in the nation and up 8 points at Washington when the guard went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Without the leading scorer, the Buffs would lose that game to the Huskies. Two weeks later, they dropped out of the rankings altogether.
One thing it didn't change was his decision.
The Colorado junior surprised quite a few people this spring when he declared early for the draft, while still recovering from injury.
"I understand that it probably hurts my immediate draft stock a little bit," he said this week at the NBA's pre-draft combine in Chicago. "But I thought it was best for me at this point to get professional-level rehab and put everything I've got into my knee."
He's been in Houston, rehabbing five days a week — often twice a day.
And, so far, Dinwiddie says he's received "glowing reports" on his progress.
Dinwiddie did not participate in drills or testing in Chicago, but he says he's been cleared to run, jump and do everything but make full cuts in a controlled environment.
"I'll be back literally right after summer league," he said.
Dinwiddie, who had interviews with Golden State, Memphis, Washington, Brooklyn and Toronto among others this week, is projected to be taken early in the second round.
But he believes he should go even higher.
At 6-foot-6 and possessing 3-point range (he shot 41 percent last season), Dinwiddie says, "There's not another package like me in the draft."
"It's up to the team," he said. "If they believe in the caliber of player that I was before the injury, I'm planning on coming back better, stronger, more athletic."
"Slow-Mo," they call him.
But UCLA's Kyle Anderson doesn't seem to mind.
"It's a creative nickname," he said. "I don't think I'm playing slow out there. It's just a nickname. People may think I'm slow, but I don't think I'm playing slow."
Unfortunately (or not?) Anderson did not participate in this week's speed and agility drills, so we don't have the numbers. Anderson did get his measurements at the combine, though. The Bruins' lanky floor leader measured 6-foot-7.5 without shoes and had a 7-foot-2 wingspan.
DraftExpress.com's latest mock draft has Anderson going to the Jazz at No. 23.
That same mock draft also has the Jazz picking Isaiah Austin at No. 35.
For Austin, it would be a trip to a familiar spot. His father coaches AAU basketball in Utah and the Baylor center says he makes a few trips to Utah each year.
"We're real close to Ty Corbin. He's a real close family friend," Austin said. "Me and Tyrell [Corbin], we'd be at Frankly Covey a lot of times."
The weather would be an adjustment for the 7-footer.
"It's freezing there," he said. "I don't go there in the winter."
But he thinks he's proved it hasn't impacted his game.
"I think I'm one of the bigs that has the most natural stroke out there," said Austin, who averaged 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks a game last year.. "Teams have seen that. It really doesn't affect me at all on the court. I was out there competing. I knew where the ball was, where the man was at all times. It's not a crutch for me.
Instead, Austin is more focused on putting on weight after clocking in at just 220 pounds.
"They want me to get stronger," he said of the teams he's talked to. "But that's going to come with age and time. Once it's my job to wake up every morning and just play basketball and not have to worry about school .. I can start dedicated my life to my craft and everything's going to fall into place perfectly."
He added, "I just love playing the game. I've really fallen back in love with the game. It's ridiculous. I study the game. I eat, sleep, drink and dream basketball. I'm just out here enjoying myself."
Former Pleasant Grove High School star C.J. Wilcox had the 12th best shuttle run (2.92 seconds) and the 12th best sprint time (3.22 seconds) at the combine.
Arizona guard Nick Johnson isn't a first-rounder.
He's projected to go in the mid- to late second round.
Still, Johnson doesn't believe returning to Tucson for his senior year would have helped.
"I wasn't going to grow in the year that I came back to college," he said. "I'm done growing. I'd say my athleticismm probably would have been the same. I could have improved on my shot but I have time to do that right now. I wasn't going to play the point guard position. I'm a big team guy. I realize we have T.J. McConnell, one of the best passing point guards in the country. So I think it was perfect for me to come out this year."
This year's class is supposed to be one of the deepest in years.
Again, Johnson said he's not concerned.
"There's going to be a lot of depth in every draft," he said. "I've played against these guys around me for a while now. I'm confident in my ability."
— Aaron Falk
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