LOUDONVILLE — Throughout his freshman season at Siena College, it became apparent the future for Jalen Pickett involves playing basketball for a living.
He’s exploring how soon that future could arrive.
Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello confirmed Sunday — the early-entry deadline to declare for this year’s draft — that Pickett will declare for the NBA draft, but suggested the star guard is likely to end up back at Siena for his sophomore season after going through the pre-draft process to gather information on how NBA teams view him.
New NCAA rules allow Pickett the option to be represented by an agent and maintain his college eligibility. Previously, Pickett requested and received an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee to start his process toward potentially working out for NBA teams.
"To one day make it to the NBA has always been a dream of mine," Pickett said in a press release issued through the Siena athletic department. "The opportunity to put my skills on display and receive feedback on where I stand in this process that the NBA has created will be invaluable. I am thankful for all of the support that I have received in my decision to pursue this opportunity."
Maciariello said it had been his understanding for the last few weeks that Pickett wanted to test the NBA waters this year, but an illness delayed the finalization of the decision. Pickett was only recently medically cleared.
“This was always the plan,” Maciariello said. “The fact he got mono hindered that, but he’d always wanted to test it this year, just like Anthony Lamb from Vermont — a fellow Rochester kid who played [AAU basketball] with Jalen on the [Albany] City Rocks."
As a freshman, Pickett led Siena to a 17-16 season with per-game averages of 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.1 steals. He was a unanimous MAAC Rookie of the Year selection and became the first freshman in more than three decades to earn an All-MAAC first-team spot.
Along the way, he started to generate buzz as an NBA prospect.
“It’s great people think I could play there. I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA, but it just shows I’ve got to keep working. Actually, I have to work harder to maintain that and get some real buzz,” Pickett said earlier this year. “Really, it’s a testament to our coaching staff and my teammates for how they’ve made me look really good.”
NBA scouts were at a selection of Siena games last season. Earlier this year, City Rocks founder Jim Hart said he’d been contacted by several NBA teams regarding Pickett.
“Jalen Pickett is the highest-IQ player we’ve ever had with the City Rocks, and there’s a big gap from him down to No. 2 with Kevin Huerter,” Hart said at the time, favorably referencing Pickett to the Shenendehowa graduate who recently completed his rookie season with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “What’s between Jalen’s ears is NBA all-star.”
Maciariello stressed that Pickett’s decision to enter the NBA draft is “all about gaining information,” but allowed that things could change if Pickett receives favorable feedback. Notably, last year, Huerter declared for the draft to gather information on what he needed to improve during his junior season at Maryland . . . and that junior season never happened for Huerter who was a first-round pick in last year’s NBA draft.
If something like that became projected to happen for Pickett, Siena’s new head coach said he’d be happy to encourage Pickett to stay in the draft.
“Obviously, he has my blessing. I believe in the kid to the end,” Maciariello said. “You want your players to realize their dreams. I hope he plays well, that his stock improves and that all the NBA teams love him.”
“Everything we’ve talked about is him coming back and that this is something for him to go through,” Maciariello said. “It’s a great process for him to go through and gain some knowledge about what the NBA people see with him, what they like, and what his flaws are.”
Once Pickett signs with an agent, Maciariello said what comes next for Pickett will start to get sorted out in terms of where and when he’d potentially work out for NBA teams. Along with the new NCAA rules that allow players to sign with an agent, players need to follow certain guidelines — such as continuing with classwork — to retain NCAA eligibility as they go through the process.
“You’re allowed to sign with an agent, and then when you’re coming back to school, you basically rip up the contract and stop contact,” Maciariello said. “We’ve done all the proper research with it and gone through the right channels for it.”
The G League Elite Camp takes place May 12-14 and the NBA draft combine is May 15-19. This year’s NCAA early entrant withdrawal deadline is May 29.
“Where it goes, it goes,” Maciariello said of Pickett’s situation. “At the end of the day, we’re looking forward to having a great season next season.”