LOUDONVILLE — Jalen Pickett repeated several times Tuesday during a session with area reporters that his main goal with declaring for the NBA draft is to “just see where I stand” after his freshman season with the Siena College men’s basketball program.
If Pickett receives favorable enough reviews during the pre-draft process, the reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year said he would stay in the draft even without a guarantee he’d be a first-round pick.
“Yeah. I probably would,” said Pickett, who has signed with agent Daniel Curtin of Three Eye Sports, but will be able to retain his college eligibility because of new NCAA rules regarding how the draft process works. “I mean, that’s always the dream — to get [to the NBA]. So, if I can get there now, why not?”
Pickett formally declared for the draft Sunday and has until May 29 to withdraw from consideration. While he took his time making his decision to declare — last Sunday night was the deadline — Pickett said that won’t be the case in terms of the next deadline.
“I’ll be done [deciding what to do] well before May 29,” Pickett said.
Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said he “would hope [Pickett] would go” if the freshman receives favorable enough feedback, and that it would “probably be a smart decision” for the guard to stay in the draft if he appears to be a first-round pick.
On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman ranked Pickett as this year’s fifth-best point guard prospect for the draft, but wrote that “teams will be questioning the competition Siena faced, and if Pickett has enough quicks and athleticism to execute against NBA point guards.”
Pickett said he hopes to earn an invitation to the May 12-14 G League Elite Camp and/or the May 15-19 NBA draft combine, and that he expects to start setting up workouts with NBA teams later this week. Pickett said his initial evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee referenced concerns about him as related to needing to show he’s “more explosive” and “more athletic.”
Maciariello said what’s important for Pickett is “putting him in front of the right people and being strategic” in where the 6-foot-4 guard works out. That doesn’t mean, though, that Pickett is going to shy away from going against high-major players during the pre-draft process.
“I would love to match him against the right matchup, whether it be a player from a BCS-level conference or someone from an NCAA title contender,” Maciariello said. “Whether [that’s] Virginia or North Carolina or Duke — one of those blue bloods — because I think he stacks up against any of those guys.”
Maciariello added: “When these lights are on, he always shows up. That’s the best attribute of Jalen Pickett.”
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.
After Jamion Christian left Siena, Pickett cheered on Maciariello’s hire as the Saints’ next head coach. After that coaching change, Pickett announced he intended to stay at Siena, and the freshman said there is still a significant chance he’ll be back with the Saints next season.
“Well, definitely. I wanted to come back to Siena. So I’m going to go [through this process] and see where I stand,” Pickett said. “If I can go to the NBA, I would, but if I don’t, I’ll be able to come back and play again at Siena.”
If Pickett stays in the NBA draft?
Maciariello said the Saints are prepared for that, and will embrace his decision.
“Hopefully he can stick around for a year or two,” Maciariello said, “but this is a great chance for not only Jalen Pickett, but our program to sell when we recruit young men — ‘Hey, you come to Siena, you’re going to be able to achieve your dreams.’”