If Keita Bates-Diop wants to keep Ohio State fans in suspense regarding his possible return for next season, he can go full Hitchcock on them for more than two more months.
The reigning Big Ten player of the year, Bates-Diop has until 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine to make a final decision on becoming professional or returning to OSU for his fourth season.
The NBA Draft Combine is scheduled May 16-20 in Chicago, near KBD’s home of Normal, Ill.
That gives him until May 30, two days after Memorial Day, to make up his mind.
While some consider his departure a forgone conclusion, an adjustment in draft eligibility rules last year allow Bates-Diop plenty of time to get a true picture of his appeal to the NBA by attending the Draft Combine and working out individually for up to two teams.
He cannot hire an agent or he is ineligible to return to school. That’s the same process Kam Williams went through last season before returning to OSU on May 24.
Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in leading the Buckeyes to a second-place finish in the Big Ten and a surprising 25-9 overall record, ending in a second-round loss to Gonzaga on Saturday night.
KBD had 28 points in that defeat, putting a final flourish on a season in which he was the unanimous choice as the best player in the Big Ten.
He said afterward that there’s no hurry on his part to make a final decision.
Projecting how high Bates-Diop might go in the draft is an inexact science. Some see him as a mid-first-round pick. Others see him as a second-round choice, and not a very high one.
The reasons for Bates-Diop to leave are obvious:
# He’s had a great year that will be difficult to duplicate next season, should he return.
# He has his Ohio State degree.
# An injury could intrude next season and lower his draft value, given that he already sat out the 2016-17 season with a stress fracture in his leg.
But it’s not like there aren’t reasons for Bates-Diop to return:
# He could win national player-of-the-year and get his number retired at OSU.
# He could add more muscle, an inside game and a much better handle, thus increasing his value in the NBA.
# He would engender tremendous goodwill for himself among the Ohio State community for his post-basketball career by serving as a cornerstone for Chris Holtmann to establish the program on solid ground.
The NBA, of course, is not Bates-Diop’s only option. He could certainly play professional in Europe or Asia and do very well for himself financially.
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