Last March, CJ Elleby scored 30 points to help lead Washington State past Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament. It was the game that turned out to be the season finale for the Cougs (as well as the rest of college basketball) thanks to the coronavirus shutdown.
That game also ended up being the last game Elleby will ever play in a Washington State uniform. Shortly after the season, the sophomore announced that he would test the waters of the NBA Draft process. Then, in July, Elleby made the somewhat surprising decision to keep his name in the NBA Draft and forego his final two seasons at WSU.
During an interview with Percy Allen of the Seattle Times, Kyle Smith took a trip down memory lane to remember that final Colorado game.
“It’s a good ending,” Smith told the Seattle Times. “To win your final Division I game and score 30. I thought about that. I thought, ‘He’s going to go (to the NBA).’”
Elleby had also tested the NBA Draft waters after his freshman season and considered turning pro before ultimately deciding to return to WSU for another year. In the end, Smith told Allen that he thought Elleby would have made a similar decision this year if the pandemic hadn’t caused so many question marks. In the end, Smith sees big things for his former player and compares him to another future NBA star he coached during his time as an assistant at Saint Mary’s.
“Patty Mills had that same quality, but he’s maybe not as talented as CJ,” Smith told the Seattle Times. “But Patty has NBA speed and NBA belief. He thought he belonged out there, and CJ is the same way. He is not scared. He’s going to play fearless. That’s an incredible quality that you can’t teach.”
Most NBA Draft analysts don’t see Elleby being among the 60 draft prospects that will hear their names called later tonight. In a mock draft at NBADraft.Net, Elleby is projected to be taken with the 60th overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans. We’ll have to wait and see if that comes true once the NBA Draft starts tonight at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN.
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