Will Khalif Wyatt get drafted? It's 'wait and see'

Will Khalif Wyatt get drafted? It's 'wait and see'

June 24, 2013, 10:30 am
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Khalif Wyatt led the A-10 in scoring with 19.8 points per game this season. (USA Today Images)

Leading up to the NBA draft on Thursday, CSNPhilly.com is profiling local players and their chances of being drafted. We begin with Temple's Khalif Wyatt:

If you aren't already aware, it's actually Kyrie Irving who plays Uncle Drew -- the gray-bearded senior citizen who throws down monster dunks at Rucker Park -- in those Pepsi Max commercials.

But if you heard Clark Kellogg call the NCAA tournament, you might have sworn it was Khalif Wyatt balling in those sweatpants and swilling soft drinks.

With his "old man's game," Wyatt dropped a game-high 31 points on both No. 8 North Carolina State and No. 1 Indiana during Temple's NCAA tournament run back in March.

Now, with the 2013 draft coming up on Thursday, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year is waiting to find out if he'll be able to match his old man's game vs. Irving's in the NBA.

"Yeah, it's funny. I actually go on YouTube and watch those videos of how he makes [those commercials]," Wyatt joked with CSNPhilly.com last week.

Wyatt found time to talk in the middle of a busy travel schedule that had him working out for the Sacramento Kings on Friday and the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday. He's also booked for a workout with the Lakers in Los Angeles on Monday before he finally hops a flight home to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

He's been training in Las Vegas at Impact Academy with the likes of Louisville's Peyton Siva, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, and Florida's Erik Murphy.

When he hasn't been working out there, he's been doing so in front of 11 NBA teams, including the Nets, Pistons, Rockets, Wizards, Trail Blazers, Suns, Mavericks, and the Norristown native's hometown Sixers.

"The Sixers workout went well," he said. "It was a little bit of a dream come true -- just the chance to be at PCOM, you know, that's where Allen Iverson practiced."

Wyatt spent his last four years practicing on North Broad Street under the direction of Owls head coach Fran Dunphy. He went from an overweight freshman out of Norristown High -- who nearly quit the Temple program after one season -- to the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 his senior year. He averaged 20.5 points in his final season, going for 30 or more seven times.

And his best performances came on some of his biggest stages. He scored a then-career-high 33 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22, leading Temple to an upset of No. 3 Syracuse, and dropped 34 on the road at St. Joe's in a losing effort. The end result didn't stop him from hitting a pull-up 35-footer in the game's final seconds, prompting Hawks coach Phil Martelli to call him "fearless."

Of course, Wyatt's been getting continued support from his own coach, with whom he didn't always get along as well as he does now.

"I've talked to Coach Dunphy. He just wished me luck really," Wyatt said. "I talked to him before the workouts. He asked me how I was feeling and wished me the best and told me he loved me and just said, 'Everything will be alright. Just work hard.'"

Wyatt has been. He's lost 15 pounds since the Indiana game and intends to keep working on his body, which is what NBA scouts have impressed on him the most throughout his pre-draft process.

"I feel better, lighter, stronger," he said. "I have better conditioning, better stamina, stuff like that. I just feel better as a whole."

The increase in stamina is a key improvement for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound combo guard, who went off for 20 points in the first half of his final college game, but withered in the second half of a 58-52 loss to No. 1 Indiana, seeming to have run out of gas. Nonetheless, he became one of only four players in the last 10 years to score 30 or more points in the round of 64 and the round of 32 in the same tournament, joining Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette and Stephen Curry, all of whom are now in the NBA.

One of Wyatt's potential employers is just happy he didn't have a chance to drop another 30 in the Sweet 16.

"Mark Cuban in Dallas was pretty cool," Wyatt said, referencing his workout for the Mavericks. "He actually graduated from Indiana. He told me I almost gave him a heart attack."

The question now is whether Wyatt will be able to score at the next level. He's not athletic in any traditional sense, often drives to the basket as if he's doing so in slow motion, and typically struggles on defense. He jokingly told one of his Twitter followers on Sunday night that he's still never dunked. And when his shots aren't falling, he can quickly turn into one of those dreaded "volume" shooters.

But he found a way to make it work in college. He can heat up from range, has no problem taking shots others would be afraid to, possesses an uncanny ability to draw contact and makes more than 80 percent of his free throws.

This series of events from Temple's 64-54 win over Saint Louis in January gives you a good idea of what it's like to watch him with the game on the line:

With 2:09 to play, the senior was caught in the corner, tried to draw contact in the air, got hit, didn't get the call and somehow made an off-balance leaner for three.

Thirty-three seconds later, he drove right, nearly lost the ball, caught it above his head, probably traveled, and found Anthony Lee in the lane.

None of it was conventional, but it all worked.

So is Wyatt unconventional enough to work past defenders in the NBA, or will he be the latest case of an elite college performer whose idiosyncrasies just couldn't translate at the next level?

"Yeah, people question whether my game can translate to the NBA," he admitted. "When the question comes up -- I mean, I've played against athletic guys all my life. At Temple, we played against everybody, big schools with some of the best athletes in the world. Those guys who are projected to be first-round picks, who are great athletes, I played against them and I held my own. I just think it's a matter of one team believing in me and having faith in my game."

Whatever happens over the next few months, Wyatt has plenty of friends to lean on and examples to learn from. Lavoy Allen, whom he played with at Temple, is entering his third NBA season and the second year of a $6 million deal with the Sixers. Maalik Wayns, a former City 6 foe at Villanova, went undrafted but played half the season as the Sixers' backup point guard before landing with the Clippers. And then there's former Owls Dionte Christmas, Mark Tyndale and Ramone Moore, who have taken their shots at the NBA but wound up playing overseas or in the D-League.

"Definitely Tyndale and Ramone and Lavoy ... and Christmas, too. They all reached out to me," Wyatt said. "They all went through the same process and they all went through all these workouts I'm going through. So whenever I'm going to a place, I'll shoot one of them a text just to see what I should be expecting, because there's a good chance one of them has been through it already. They've definitely helped me."

But what won't help Wyatt, evidently, is television. That's because he won't watch the draft on Thursday night. Whether he's picked in the first round, or the second round or passed over entirely, he won't find out by watching the broadcast. Asked why he won't watch, Wyatt tried to find the words but ultimately couldn't come up with anything other than "I just don't want to." He said he'll maybe spend the night at the gym or even just at his house, but that the draft won't be on.

"I know I have a chance to get drafted," he said. "Several teams have interest in me, I just don't know if it's enough interest to draft me. I just have to wait and see.

"If I do get drafted, there's still a lot of work to be done. And if I don't -- I just have to control what I can control.

"June 27 won't be the end of the world no matter which way it goes."

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