Przybilla considers leaving team, gives no definite answer

by Mark Heller

While there’s no official word, Minnesota men’s basketball player Joel Przybilla is leaning toward entering the NBA draft and forgoing his final two years at the University.
Przybilla was suspended by Gophers coach Dan Monson on Tuesday for failure to meet the team’s academic standards.
Monson checked on Przybilla’s academic progress Wednesday and Thursday and said although the sophomore has not announced that he will leave the University, Przybilla has not gone to classes the past two days.
“Nobody takes their seven-foot player and throws him away,” Monson said. “There’s been no sign (of him improving) academically since Tuesday.”
The lack of academic improvement means it’s likely the sophomore center is through with school and headed to June’s NBA draft.
If Przybilla does enter the draft, most draft experts have Przybilla as a top-13 pick.
Despite leading the team in scoring (14.2), rebounding (8.4) and blocked shots (3.9), not everyone is sold on the seven-footer in the pros.
“I’ve never seen and I don’t know anything about him,” said Marty Blake, director of NBA scouting. “If he wants to come out, that’s his privilege. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be drafted. I don’t discuss underclassmen; I try to keep them in school.
“There’s a difference of day and night between pro ball and college ball.”
Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders spoke with the media after Thursday’s practice at the Target Center. While he didn’t speak about Przybilla specifically, he indicated that college players need four years of college basketball.
“A lot of times, this is not a game, it’s a job,” Saunders said. “When you step on the floor, they don’t check your ID and give you a break if you’re younger than the guy you’re playing against. Usually it’s the other way around. If you’re younger, they’re going to take advantage of you more.”
Bobby Jackson, a former Gopher and current backup point guard for the Wolves, added that it might take players like Przybilla coming to the NBA and failing before young players stop leaving school early.
“All in all, when some guys come out and start failing, they’re going to say, ‘Maybe I should have stayed in school and given myself a chance to fully develop.’ It just takes a long time for players to physically and mentally mature.”
Saunders also discussed the mental and emotional struggle 19- and 20-year-olds have entering the NBA.
“This is a man’s league. Now you’re dealing with 32-, 33-, 34-year-old men off the floor,” he said, “and you don’t have a lot of things in common. It can be a very difficult adjustment, especially if you go to a team where there’s not a lot of young players.”
Przybilla was suspended by Monson indefinitely Tuesday for failing to meet team requirements in several academic areas. Przybilla also took some time off in November for personal reasons.
Some have called Monson’s punishment of Przybilla harsh, but with academic fraud hanging over the program’s head, Monson said on Wednesday that he was holding everyone accountable.
As a result of Przybilla’s November sabbatical, and the latest suspension, questions have surfaced about the relationship between Przybilla and Monson.
But Jackson is also not sold on Przybilla being successful in the pros just yet.
“If he thinks he’s ready, then more power to him. I’m not going to say anybody shouldn’t go, but I think he should stay and develop his overall skill. He could be a great player, but not right now. At this level he’s going to have to get stronger and learn how to score,” Jackson said.
Both Jackson and Saunders agree it would probably be best for Przybilla to return to school to improve his game.
“It’s where he’s at right now at Minnesota,” Jackson said. “That’s how you get better. There ain’t too many people that can come out and be Kevin Garnett. For (Przybilla) to be effective, he has to stay four years in college.”

Mark Heller covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]