For Cam Oliver, this is a can’t-lose proposition.
The versatile 6-foot-8 freshman forward from Nevada out of Grant High School has thrown his name into the NBA draft pool. If selected in the first round, Oliver will become an instant millionaire.
But there’s a hitch.
Oliver has not signed with an agent, thus allowing him a chance to retain his college eligibility should he not receive enough favorable feedback from NBA executives about his draft stock. Next month, he will appear at the draft combine in Chicago, where he will be mentally and physically worked out and evaluated.
If I get the right feedback from the NBA people, then I can go into the draft. If not, I’ll come back to Reno, and I love it here – my teammates, the school, the coaches.
Nevada forward Cam Oliver
Oliver will participate in dribbling drills, spot-up shooting exercises and more. Scouts will see how high he can jump, how fast he can run and how he responds to questions.
Worst-case scenario? Oliver is deemed a second-round possibility, nixes that and returns to Reno, better for the experience. Last season, he averaged 13.4 points and blocked a school-record 99 shots.
“I’m very excited and optimistic and ready to see how I do,” Oliver said Monday. “If I get the right feedback from the NBA people, then I can go into the draft. If not, I’ll come back to Reno, and I love it here – my teammates, the school, the coaches. It’s worth looking into. No matter what happens, I’ll learn from it. This – playing basketball – is something I want to do for a career.”
The NBA doesn’t want a flood of ill-prepared prospects hiring agents and losing their college eligibility if they are not ready for pro basketball. By not hiring an agent, Oliver can test the waters with no risks. The 2016 draft is not considered to be strong, so Oliver thought it wise to take a peek.
It’s the same line of thinking for Oliver’s longtime friend Malik Pope, a 6-10 sophomore forward for San Diego State out of Laguna Creek High. Pope also is testing the NBA draft without hiring an agent.
Pope wasn’t available to talk Monday, but San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said in a statement, “With the rule change (allowing prospects to return to college if they don’t hire an agent), it is a great opportunity for Malik to get workouts and evaluations from NBA personnel. Together, we will monitor his progress.”
Pope’s high school career was mixed with potential and pain. He missed most of his final two seasons at Laguna Creek because of leg injuries. After fully recovering at San Diego State, he wowed teammates and opponents with his ability to run the floor, dunk, handle the ball and pass. Pope averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds over his last 13 games.
Oliver and Pope are following in the footsteps of Marquese Chriss, a 6-9 forward from Washington out of Pleasant Grove. After just one season in Seattle, Chriss last month declared for the draft as a projected top-15 pick. Chriss averaged 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds with the Huskies. He signed with agent Rob Pelinka, whose clients include Kobe Bryant and James Harden.
“I think it’s great, three guys from Sacramento doing this,” Oliver said. “We’re all excited.”
The first person Oliver approached with his decision was his Nevada coach, Eric Musselman. The former Kings and Golden State Warriors coach offered Oliver his support and told him to be ready to be scrutinized. And he reminded Oliver he has a home in Reno.
“Coach Muss is completely behind me,” Oliver said. “He told me to just be ready for the process. I’m getting there. I’m prepared for the interviews. It’s about selling yourself, being honest.”
Oliver admits to a growth spurt in maturity. His Grant coaches often chided him for not competing as hard on defense as he did on offense. That wasn’t an issue at Nevada, where Musselman assured Oliver that if he didn’t hustle on defense, he would be on the bench.
“I’ve matured, and I’m still maturing, still growing as a person and a player,” Oliver said. “In high school, I wasn’t much of a defensive player. That was my main focus at Nevada, though.”
I’ve matured, and I’m still maturing, still growing as a person and a player. In high school, I wasn’t much of a defensive player. That was my main focus at Nevada, though.
Nevada forward Cam Oliver
An Oakland native, Oliver said he fashions his game after the Warriors’ Draymond Green, a “stretch 4 who can do it all,” Oliver said.
“I think that’s the new generation of the NBA, with versatile big guys who can shoot, dribble, post up, run the floor,” Oliver said. “Draymond Green is a perfect example. I love watching his game. I’m a big Warriors fan, and a big fan of his.”
Asked what he can provide an NBA team, Oliver said, “I can bring great energy, a great motor, some skills and defense, and I can be a great teammate. I have a lot of athleticism, a decent jumper. I can be a Chris Bosh, Rudy Gay, Draymond Green type. And I’m still improving. The best is yet to come.”