Sampson to enter NBA draft?

By grant.brown

Minnesota Gophers center Ralph Sampson III has declared for the NBA draft.

The move is surprising considering the 6-foot-11, 241 pound senior-to be is not expected to be drafted.

It is unclear if Sampson has hired an agent, but chances are he has not hired one considering he can still opt-out of the draft before the May 8th deadline. He would then return for his senior season at Minnesota under head coach Tubby Smith.

This could be a move for Sampson to gauge any NBA interest, but he is not listed in ESPN’s top 100 recruits and Smith has said he doesn’t see much interest for the Duluth, Georgia native from NBA teams.

However, there has been speculation that influential people in Sampson’s life, such as his mother, have told him to move forward and enter the draft.

That would be a huge mistake.

While Sampson has raw basketball talent and has shown improvement, he hasn’t proved he can be consistent. He averaged 10.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game last year. He was third on the team in minutes behind Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe.

When Al Nolen went down with a broken foot, the Gophers interior offense was expected to provide relief. However, Gopher forwards Sampson and Mbakwe clearly did not pick up the slack as the team lost 10 of its last 11 games.   

Another year could be crucial to Sampson’s development, especially with Mbakwe returning for his senior season. Sampson could also become a great role model for incoming freshmen Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins. 

Losing Sampson would be another critical hit to Tubby and the Gophers basketball program, who recently lost center Colton Iverson to Colorado State.

While the glamour of the NBA must be such a draw for someone like Sampson, I feel he will ultimately return for his senior season at Minnesota.

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