NEW YORK — Count former Kansas big man Cole Aldrich among those who think it’s not a bad idea for Joel Embiid to remain at Kansas for another season.
“I don’t knock a guy that wants to stay,” Aldrich told SNY.tv before Friday’s Knicks game against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden. “He’s so young and when you get to the NBA there’s no going back. You can’t go back to college and get those years back. They’re done, they’re over with.”
The 7-foot Embiid is widely projected as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but recently told ESPN he’s “strongly considering” returning for his sophomore season.
Former Knicks point guard and current NBA analyst Greg Anthony also told SNY.tv that Embiid should remain in college for another year because he’s not ready yet.
Kansas coach Bill Self has said that Embiid has the highest ceiling of any player he’s ever coached, but is still a long ways from realizing his potential.
The No. 11 pick in the 2010 Draft, Aldrich said he could’ve come out after his sophomore season at Kansas, but opted to stay one more year to realize his academic goals.
“For myself, my parents really harped on me to get my degree and I actually last May went and graduated and what not,” he said.
Aldrich said if Embiid doesn’t come out, he risks hurting his stock somewhat.
“You look at Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State, who potentially could’ve been a top three pick [last year], and now who knows where he’s gonna go this year,” Aldrich said.
Smart is currently projected as No. 6 by DraftExpress.com.
Still, Aldrich thinks another year of college can’t hurt Embiid — and can only help him.
“That’s just a tough position, when you’re that high, it is hard. If you’re a lottery guy or mid-first round,” he said. “Why not [stay]? What’s a year gonna do, it’s not gonna hurt you.
“It’s all about the position and the opportunity. And now I don’t know if the league is going in a different direction where you have higher picks who maybe aren’t playing as many minutes as previous years for whatever reason that is.”
Aldrich played against Embiid and Andrew Wiggins last summer at Kansas and believes both can be effective in the NBA next year.
“I think so,” he said. “[But] it takes time. It definitely takes time. You look at a lot of big guys. Andrew Bynum is a guy that came out when he was 17 years old, just turned 18, and it’s about that maturity level. Guys getting that extra year of experience, living on your own. Sure you make a lot of money and you could have people help you do that. But it’s about doing the right things because we can only play basketball for so long.”
He also pointed to the aspect of returning for another year to enjoy the pleasures of college life.
“If you were in that position and you could be the quote-unquote king of the campus, be the big guy and everybody’s talking about you, would you stay?” Aldrich asked.
Aldrich wondered what would have happened if Danny Manning, who tutored Aldrich during his time at Kansas, were still on the staff to tutor Embiid.
“I would’ve liked to see if Danny was there how he grew as a big guy because Danny Manning was just an unbelievable teacher,” he said. “A teacher, a mentor, a guy that’s done it all.”
Regardless, another year at Kansas could help Embiid develop under Self and his current staff.
“Big guys usually don’t mature till later anyway, until their mid-20s,” Aldrich said. “That’s when you usually get those good years.”