VALPARAISO | When the NBA Draft begins tonight, 15 of the top picks will be sitting in the green room at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, waiting for their names to be called.
Former Valparaiso basketball player Brandon Wood will be sitting at home in Kokomo with family and friends, hoping his name is on the list, too.
While the top prospects typically avoid pre-draft workouts for the fear of injury or hurting their stock, Wood was kept from workouts throughout much of the draft process for reasons the Michigan State senior still can’t figure out. There were no invites to the Portsmouth Invitational or Chicago Draft Combine and individual team workouts were few and far between.
“I thought I showed enough to deserve more workouts than I got,” Wood said. “Everything happens for a reason and I’m blessed to be in a position that I am. I just feel like in my case, I don’t know what more I could’ve done to have a chance to work out for teams.”
The Milwaukee Bucks were the only team to have Wood back for a second workout, with the most recent being on Tuesday morning when the Bucks were auditioning potential first-round picks Terrance Ross (Washington) and Jeremy Lamb (UConn).
Whether it’s the Bucks or another team, if Wood hears his name on Thursday night, it will erase all the pain and frustration of the last 14 months. Wood transferred to Michigan State from Valparaiso last May, but had a diminished role with the Spartans. While earning a spot in the starting lineup, Wood was no longer the top scoring threat he was with the Crusaders. His scoring average dropped from 17.2 points per game at Valparaiso to just 8.8 points at Michigan State, despite shooting a career-best 46.5 percent from the field.
“My first year at Valpo we weren’t very good, but I had good individual numbers,” Wood said. “My second year we got really good and I became a leader; then this year, I really don’t know. I had some big games, but I think it’s just politics. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Part of the politics could stem from Wood’s arrest earlier this year for allegedly assaulting an 18-year-old woman in Chicago on April 29. Charges of assault and battery were dismissed by Judge Ann O’Donnell of the Circuit Court of Cook County on June 1, but Wood plead guilty to criminal trespassing. Wood was in Chicago working out with personal trainers for the draft.
“I can’t get into too many details, but what was said was not how it happened,” Wood said. “I learned a lot from that experience. I feel like no matter what happened in the court, people still probably judged me. The people that really know me, know what type of person I am, they know it wasn’t true. The people that talked bad about me probably didn’t like me before the incident. I’m assuming that this incident probably had something to do with not getting the workouts that I deserved.”
If Wood isn’t selected on Thursday night, he’ll continue to chase the NBA dream before deciding whether playing overseas is an option. NBA teams will be looking to fill rosters for the upcoming summer leagues with undrafted free agents as soon as the final pick is made.
“When Thursday comes and if I don’t hear my name, I’ll be disappointed,” Wood said. “It’s the day I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Whatever happens, I just know that I’m a success story.”