Ekpe Udoh Enjoys Ride as NBA Draft Stock Rises
Where exactly? He won't know until Thursday's NBA Draft, when the 23-year-old forward from Baylor will learn his destination while sitting in the green room of Madison Square Garden in New York City.
But as he sat in an airport in Detroit on Monday waiting for his flight to New Orleans during his ongoing workout tour, the 6-foot-10, 237-pounder marveled at the nearby plane that was headed for France.
"You guys should see this thing," he said in a phone interview with FanHouse. "It's huge!"
He should know.
While Udoh hasn't quite reached jumbo jet status among the top prospects, he is getting bigger by the day.
His decision to transfer from Michigan in 2008 has long since paid dividends, with Udoh using the time during his NCAA-mandated year off to add to his game and prepare to prove why he had made the right choice. He did just that while leading the Bears to their first Elite Eight finish in 50 years in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 13.9 points and 9.8 rebounds while setting a Big-12 Conference single-season record of 133 blocks.
Now Udoh, who reportedly impressed in his workout with the Pistons, has gone from a big man believed by most to be a late first-round talent to a player who could be taken as high as Detroit's seventh pick.
"Whew, it's something else," Udoh said of his rising stock and the draft experience. "It's kind of tough for me to grasp, really. If you're not in the shoes of one of the players who was invited (to the green room), it's tough to describe. My agent told me the news. When he told me, I'd be at Madison Square Garden, where you've always watched (the draft), that's tough to grasp."
Teams seem to have a good grip on Udoh's game, though, and he and Georgetown's Greg Monroe appear to be increasing their draft positions more than any other bigs. But while some have compared Udoh to Sacramento forward Jason Thompson, Udoh, who has a 7-5 wingspan, has taken the initiative in discussions with teams to offer a more appealing comparison.
"I said Marcus Camby, with the way he plays defense, just all open shots he's got (in his repertoire), pick and pop and just facing," Udoh said. "He never gets outside of his element."
Udoh hasn't run from his weaknesses, either, candidly telling teams that he must improve his ability to compete at the highest level consistently.
"I'm working on my motor," he said. "It's something I have to work on. I'm decent at it now, but need to take it to another level."
He'll have plenty of time to do that when he becomes a first-round pick on Thursday. Until then, he'll just keep enjoying the ride.
"It's a blessing for me to be where I'm at right now," he said.