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Dreaming big -- four Hoosiers to enter NBA draft

Indiana's Robert Johnson (4) and James Blackmon walk off the court after last month's Big Ten tourney loss to Wisconsin in Washington D.C. (File photo by the Associated Press)
Indiana's Robert Johnson (4) and James Blackmon walk off the court after last month's Big Ten tourney loss to Wisconsin in Washington D.C. (File photo by the Associated Press)

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ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Robert Johnson, James Blackmon will take a shot

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 08:31 pm

BLOOMINGTON – If you're Indiana junior guard Robert Johnson, why not enter the NBA draft?

The only downside is some after-semester travel — and possibly hearing a brutal truth.

If you're a good player, and Johnson is good, you get a chance to work out for NBA coaches and scouts, and with the top prospects in America, and beyond. You'll get a chance to impress, and perhaps earn your way into draft status, but most importantly, you'll get honest feedback on your prospects and overall game.

At the worst, you'll get told to return to school after receiving input on what needs to improve. Then it will be up to you to make the most of it.

Johnson and fellow Hoosier Thomas Bryant joined with teammates OG Anunoby and James Blackmon in officially entering the draft on Tuesday. Anunoby will hire an agent, which means his college career is over after two seasons.

The others will not hire an agent. They have until May 24 to decide on whether to stay in the draft or return to school.

Anunoby projects as a top-16 pick, which means he could sign for more than $5 million over three years.

Bryant projects as a mid-second-round pick. Johnson and Blackmon are not listed among the top-60 players set to be drafted on June 22.

Still, they could sign as free agents and hope to make a roster next season, as former Hoosiers Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams did last year.

Or, they could play overseas.

Or they could return to IU and see what new coach Archie Miller can do in his debut season with the program.

"These four young men all have unique talents and we support them in their decisions," Miller said in a university release. "We congratulate OG and hope that James, Robert and Thomas can benefit from this and make the best decision that will have a lifelong impact.

“As the semester winds down, we will continue to help them in any way with our priority being they continue their commitment to their academics and all eventually become Indiana University graduates."

Johnson is entering the draft for the first time. He has 87 career starts. Last year he averaged 12.8 points, 13.2 in Big Ten play. He added 85 assists. One of the conference's top perimeter shooters, his best game came in early March, when he broke out of a month-long slump to score 26 points in a win at Ohio State.

"I'm excited to go through this process and use this as a learning experience," Johnson said.  "Every player in college has the goal to compete at the highest level and I'm looking forward to what the future may hold."

The 6-8 Anunoby is recovering from a January knee injury that ended his season. He played in 16 games and averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. His best game was in the late-November win over North Carolina, when he totaled 16 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

“I have enjoyed my time at Indiana and after thinking this over with my family, I believe this is the best decision for me personally," Anunoby said in the release. "I will always be grateful to (former coach Tom Crean), his staff, and especially my teammates for two of the best years of my life. I wish Coach Miller and the program the best of luck in the future."

Blackmon, a former Bishop Luers standout and a junior guard, made third-team All-Big Ten after leading IU in scoring (a career-high 17.0 points). His 1,235 career points ranks No. 33 in school history.

DraftExpress.com rates Blackmon as the No. 26 junior and the No. 15 player in the Big Ten.

Blackmon also entered the draft last year.

“My ultimate goal has always been to play professionally and this is an opportunity I want to take advantage of," Blackmon said. "This is an important process and I am excited to take part in it."

The 6-10 Bryant has earned all-conference honors in each of his first two seasons. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season. He led the Hoosiers with 52 blocks. This is the first time he has entered the draft.

However, inconsistency this past season dropped him from a projected first-round pick after a freshman year in which he led the Big Ten in shooting (68.3 percent). His offensive efficiency was No. 455 this season. As a freshman it was No.35.

"I'm going to put all my energy in getting the most out of this opportunity and see what the best decision will be for my future," Bryant said. "I love IU and my teammates, but having the opportunity to play basketball for a living has always been my dream."


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ONLINE: For more on sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

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