Terrance Ferguson might be the biggest riser among all prospects over the next eight months. The former Alabama and Arizona commit spurned college programs across the country to play in Australia in the NBL for the Adelaide 36ers, where he recently made his professional debut scoring 10 points in 17 minutes.
— NBL (@NBL) October 7, 2016
Look up highlight videos of Ferguson, and you see a swingman who has the skill set, athleticism, and size to be a potential three-and-d’ wing at the next level. He stands 6’7” with a 6’9.5” wingspan and is a career 39.4 percent three-point shooter (per DraftExpress) with standout athleticism in the open court and good lateral quickness.
So why did the former five-star recruit (number 11 in ESPN’s Top 100) have a change of heart and join Brandon Jennings (a one-time Arizona commit in 2008) and, more recently, Emmanuel Mudiay in playing professionally overseas? He’s focused on making it to the NBA.
“Every kid wants to live the college lifestyle, but I have bigger plans, and my mind is really focused on the NBA,” Ferguson told Fairfax Media this week. “Living the college lifestyle, I had to pass that up and come to a grown-man league and do the best that I can to make my dream come true.”
Many think Ferguson’s change of plans were because of potential eligibility issues after his old high school, Prime Prep Academy, shut down last January due to pressure from debts and lawsuits. Ferguson graduated from a school in the Prime Prep branch, Advance Preparatory International, where he played alongside fellow five-star recruits in Billy Preston and Trevon Duval.
Prime Prep Academy also produced Mudiay, who also had a change of plan after committing to SMU in 2014 before deciding to play in China for a year. He was the seventh overall pick in 2015 and has had a decent start to his NBA career. The two are close, both having a shoe deal with Under Armour and have talked about their similar situations.
“When he [Mudiay] heard I was going to Australia, he said I was in a better position than he was, and he was successful where he was,” Ferguson told Fairfax Media.”So I’m thinking if I’m in a better position that’s a good thing – it helped my confidence a lot – I’m here, and I’m enjoying it.”
The NBL is hoping he’s enjoying it, as a lot rides on his experience in the league. The league is hopeful his success story will bring other American high school imports to help them grow, and they’ve already done a good job promoting Ferguson early on this season.
— NBL (@NBL) October 9, 2016
But Ferguson still has some developing to do to reach his potential. He needs to continue working on his ball skills to help when attacking closeouts, adding weight to his 186-pound frame, and learning how to use his athleticism better in the half-court. Ferguson has shown signs of an in-between game with a one-dribble pull-up, and that needs to continue to be a part of his game moving forward.
But there’s no doubt his bread-and-butter as he develops will be his three-point shot, especially in the spacing-heavy offenses of today’s NBA. The McDonald’s All-American can get hot in a hurry, evidenced by his Nike Hoop Summit record seven three-pointers earlier this summer. If Ferguson can add some spice to his off-the-dribble game, where he mostly attacks in straight line drives, he can really up his versatility offensively.
Ferguson has been on the NBA radar for awhile now. The three-time gold medalist has a skillset that NBA teams crave, and taking him in the draft would mean hoping his ball skills improve where he can be a reliable shooting guard at the next level. Adding weight is a must to help him on both ends of the court, but that will come with time.
In the end, there’s some risk with going overseas. Ferguson will gain less exposure, but it should pay dividends in time. Playing against professional athletes and grown men will help him develop quicker. If he grows up quickly playing in the NBL, it will bode well for future development at the NBA level. If I’m an NBA team, I take that risk early in the 2017 draft.