LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Jalen Pickett had a hard time getting schools to notice him before he signed with Siena a year ago. Now, he already has workouts scheduled with NBA teams after entering his name into consideration for the upcoming draft.
"I'm going to go out there and see where I stand with all the great college players, see if I can play at the next level, just get some feedback on my game," Pickett said Tuesday. "I always wanted to get to the NBA later on. I didn't think it was going to come so fast. To get this type of acknowledgement so early ... is just a dream come true.
"I'm pretty confident. I'm never going to be scared," added Pickett, who only received a handful of college offers after one year of prep school despite stellar play in AAU ball. "I'm going to go out there and play my game."
Under new NCAA rules college players can try out with NBA teams, participate in the NBA Draft Combine, and retain the services of an agent during the evaluation process but must end the relationship and withdraw from the draft by May 29 if they want to return to school. Pickett, who had a standout freshman year for the Saints, is being represented by Three Eye Sports.
It's a sign of the times, even for players in weaker leagues like the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference where Siena competes. The MAAC ranked near the bottom (29th of 32) in the power rankings this past season.
"Jalen's hoping to show well," new Siena coach Carmen Maciariello said. "He won't be able to work out with everybody, so we'll have to pick and choose what fits his style of play and teams that are known for looking at underclassmen and maybe trying to build that relationship for the future."
Pickett averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.1 steals as a freshman . The 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard from Rochester, New York ranked ninth nationally in assists per game (6.7) and among Division I freshmen was third in assists and fourth in both assist-to-turnover ratio and steals. He was named MAAC rookie of the week a record 11 times and became the first freshman in more than three decades to earn a first-team spot on the all-MAAC team.
"We'd love for him to be a lottery pick. That would be great," Maciariello said. "It would be our first lottery pick. Hopefully, he can stick around a year or two, but this is a great chance for not only Jalen but our program to sell when we recruit. You come to Siena, you'll be able to achieve your dreams."
Only one former Siena player has appeared in an NBA game. Edwin Ubiles played in four games with the Washington Wizards in March 2012, totaling 14 points and 10 rebounds in 52 minutes of action. Kenny Hasbrouck signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat in March and April of 2010 but never saw action in a regular-season game.
Pickett is facing a stiff challenge because he's recovering from mononucleosis and has to get back in game shape in a hurry. He said he planned to follow the steps necessary to maintain his collegiate eligibility and is expected back for his sophomore year.
"It's got to be the right situation, the right opportunity," Pickett said. "If they offer the right situation and I can go, I think I'll take it. If the opportunity presents itself, you can't turn it down."