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NBA draft combine 2022: Duke, UNC, NC State players to watch

Dukes AJ Griffin (21), Wendell Moore Jr. (0) and Trevor Keels (1) huddle after a timeout during the second half of Dukes 78-69 victory over Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament West Regional finals at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., Saturday, March 26, 2022.

Dukes AJ Griffin (21), Wendell Moore Jr. (0) and Trevor Keels (1) huddle after a timeout during the second half of Dukes 78-69 victory over Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament West Regional finals at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., Saturday, March 26, 2022.

ehyman@newsobserver.com

The NBA scouting combine is designed to project into the future, giving college prospects a chance to show teams what they can do at the professional level.

This year, though, Duke, N.C. State and the rest of the ACC will be keeping a close eye because what happens here could decide how those college basketball teams will fare next season.

A pair of N.C. State players, sophomore Dereon Seabron and freshman Terquavion Smith, aren’t considered strong enough prospects that they will for sure be staying in the draft. The same goes for Duke freshman Trevor Keels, who could end up returning for his sophomore season with the Blue Devils.

North Carolina’s next team could also be impacted by what happens at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena this week with 6-9 shooting guard Patrick Baldwin, Jr., and 6-9 small forward Matthew Mayer, who are possible transfer targets for the Tar Heels.

Here’s a look at which Duke, UNC and N.C. State players are on the invite list, where they are currently projected in NBA mock drafts and which players could return to college and play for the Blue Devils, Tar Heels or Wolfpack next season.

Triangle players at combine

Duke: The Blue Devils’ five-player contingent is headed by projected lottery picks Paolo Banchero (6-10, 250) and A.J. Griffin (6-6, 222). Sophomore center Mark Williams (7-0, 242), junior guard Wendell Moore (6-5, 213) and Keels (6-4, 220) are also on the invite list.

N.C. State: After playing well on a poor N.C. State team last season, Dereon Seabron (6-7, 180) and Terquavion Smith (6-4, 160) are among 76 players who were invited to participate in the combine.

North Carolina: Brady Manek (6-9, 230) is among 44 players participating in the G League Elite Camp, which is Monday and Tuesday. He hopes to be among the few G League Elite Camp participants invited to stick around for the NBA scouting combine later in the week.

Who is done with college?

Four of Duke’s prospects — Banchero, Griffin, Moore and Williams — are all projected as first-round picks and have no plans to continue their college basketball careers.

From UNC, Manek has exhausted his college eligibility after using his fifth season, allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to transfer from Oklahoma to start on the Tar Heels’ NCAA runner-up team.

Who might return?

Duke: The focus is on Keels, a key player on Duke’s ACC regular-season championship and Final Four team even though he came off the bench during the ACC and NCAA tournaments. He’s projected as a second-round pick even though he appeared in some mock drafts late in the first round at times during the season. The Blue Devils have a scholarship for him but the coaches have encouraged Keels to go all out during the draft process to see what feedback he receives.

Another player in Chicago Duke’s coaches remain interested in is A.J. Green, a shooting guard who played at Northern Iowa the last four seasons. The 6-4 Green, who was named Missouri Valley Conference player of the year twice in the last three seasons, entered his name in the transfer portal and also entered the NBA draft. Duke’s competition for Green includes Iowa State, where his father, Kyle, is an assistant coach.

N.C. State: Seabron emerged as a standout for the Wolfpack as a redshirt sophomore last season, leading the team in scoring (17.3), rebounding (8.2), assists (3.2) and steals (1.4). He shows up on some second-round projections but could go undrafted. He did not enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal so it’s the Wolfpack or professional basketball for Seabron. The belief is he’ll stay in the draft no matter what happens in Chicago this week.

STATECLEM22-030822-EDH.jpg
N.C. State’s Dereon Seabron (1) heads to the basket during the second half of Clemson’s 70-64 victory over N.C. State in the first round of the ACC men’s basketball tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

A freshman guard from Greenville, Smith averaged 16.3 points per game while making 36.9% of his 3-point shots during his first season of college basketball. He’s a shoot-first guard with solid range and accuracy. But he’ll need to get stronger to be effective at the pro level, which is why he’s projected mostly in the second round or as likely to be undrafted. His work at the combine will go a long way toward determining whether he’ll return to N.C. State or stay in the draft.

North Carolina: Tar Heel fans should monitor two players from other schools — 6-9 shooting guard Patrick Baldwin, Jr., of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 6-9 small forward Matt Mayer from Baylor. Both received invites from the NBA to work out at the combine. Both are also in the NCAA’s transfer portal so if they decide to come back to college they could wind up in Chapel Hill since UNC has interest in both. UNC has four starters already returning from the team that nearly won the NCAA championship last month. Either of these players would be important additions.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He placed second in both beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors national contest. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly. He’s won numerous state-level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.

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