If the NBA Draft was today, junior guard Thomas Gardner likely would not leave MU just yet.
Gardner said he would return for his senior season unless he is projected to be picked up late in the first round or early in the second round. His name isn't in the first or second rounds of most mock drafts.
Luckily for Gardner, he has more than three months to improve his stock. The draft isn't until June 27.
Jonathan Givony, president and director of scouting for independent NBA Draft Web site DraftExpress.com, said this year's draft class has an abundance of talented shooting guards. Givony said 12 to 15 shooting guards are better than Gardner at this point.
"As an NBA Draft prospect, I am not really sold on him just yet," Givony said. "I think he has a lot of work cut out for him."
Gardner and Givony had similar outlooks on the MU junior's strengths and weaknesses. Both said Gardner was a great shooter but could work on his ball control.
"A lot of (scouts) know I can shoot the ball," Gardner said. "But there's a lot of other things I have to do."
Givony, who said he has watched Gardner many times this year, described him as a strong athlete and a "phenomenal shooter" with great off-the-ball movement. At the same time, Givony said Gardner's ball handling (3.3 turnovers per game) might hinder his status. Givony said NBA teams look for more than just good shooters.
"A lot of teams can use a guy like him. He is a clutch shooter off the dribble and he can catch and shoot," Givony said. "His ball handling is just so weak, he will be projected as a one-dimensional guy."
Givony said NBA teams picked up some of college basketball's best shooters, including Salim Stoudemire and Steve Kerr, in the second round. Gardner is the Big 12's No. 2 scorer.
Gardner said he didn't know exactly where he stands in the draft field. He said he isn't checking the Internet mock drafts either.
Gardner will mostly train in Columbia, but will also work out at home in Oregon during spring break, men's basketball spokesman Dave Reiter said.
"I would advise him to keep all of his options open," Givony said. "Try to get into the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp and talk to as many people as he can to improve for next year. It really depends on what happens the next three months."
Upon returning to Columbia, Gardner said he will continue attending classes and working out with the team in preparation for the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, Fla. on June 6-10.