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What's next for Christian Watford?

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Ex-Hoosier will have summer league chance to shine

Saturday, June 29, 2013 - 1:10 am

The NBA draft spotlight missed Christian Watford.

It happens. Sixty guys are selected in the league's two rounds every year. Another 60 or so guys are left wondering what might have been.

Some guys turn wondering into million-dollar pro careers. Others move on with the rest of their lives.

What will Watford do?

It's up to him.

Watford is the guy who hit one of the most memorable shots -- the three-pointer to beat No. 1 Kentucky -- in Indiana's impressive basketball history. He finished No. 9 on the school's career scoring list with more than 1,700 points. At 6-9, he was versatile enough to defend point guards as well as centers. Last year he shot 48.3 percent from three-point range.

It wasn't enough. Working out for 17 teams wasn't enough.

And yet …

Watford has an opportunity to play on summer league teams for the Indiana Pacers and, perhaps, the Dallas Mavericks. If he does well enough, he'll earn an invitation to a preseason camp. If he does well enough there, he'll earn a spot on the team. And if he does well enough with the team, well, IU coach Tom Crean has experience with what can happen.

Crean coached Wes Matthews at Marquette. Matthews wasn't drafted in 2009, but signed as a free agent with the Utah Jazz. After one year, he signed a five-year, $34 million contract with Portland.

“Now it becomes truly about business,” Crean said during a Friday teleconference. “A lot of people had a lot of interest in Christian. They had the opportunity to draft him. They didn't. We can't worry about that.”

So Crean offered Watford some advice.

“You have to be focused on where you're going to have the best opportunity to fit, and at the same time, have the best opportunity to showcase other teams what you're capable of.”

Watford held out hope to the very end of Thursday night's draft, long after former IU teammates Victor Oladipo (No. 2 to Orlando) and Cody Zeller (No. 4 to Charlotte) were selected. He wanted to hear his name called, and if it didn't happen until after midnight with the last pick of a long night, he was fine with that.

It didn't happen at all.

“He's highly disappointed,” Crean said. “There's no question about that.”

Still, as the draft reached deep into the second round, Crean's phone began buzzing with NBA officials seeking more information on Watford.

“There was a tremendous amount of traffic last night as the draft was winding down with head coaches and owners and GMs,” Crean said. “There were quite a few scenarios that just didn't come to fruition.

“He did a tremendous job in showing his skills, selling himself, doing all the things he needed to do in his workouts. He took his respect level to another place. When he went to all those different cities to work out, he battled. People saw what we saw. He eliminated a lot of questions people might have had about him.”

The Indiana Pacers play in the Orlando Pro League, which goes July 7-12. The Mavericks play in Las Vegas' NBA Summer League. That runs from July 12-22.

Watford will get his chance to eliminate more questions.

“He'll feel better,” Crean said. “He'll get back at it and get real busy quickly.”

Former IU guard Jordan Hulls, who didn't get drafted Thursday night, also is hoping to land on a NBA summer league team. He worked out with the Pacers, Chicago and Detroit. Signing with an overseas team, most likely in Europe, also is a possibility.