Watford’s H.S. coach expects him to leave early if he knows he’ll be taken

Mike Burrus admits he’s just making an educated guess. The head basketball coach at Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Ala., has had some discussion with his former pupil Christian Watford and Watford’s parents about Watford’s consideration of taking an early entry into the NBA draft but he’s not necessarily on the inner-most circle of discussions.

But Burrus’s guess is that if the Indiana junior forward believes he’s going to be drafted — be it with a guaranteed contract in the first round or without one in the second round — he will decide to make the leap and forgo his senior season.

“Right now, he’s pretty hot,” Burrus said. “If you get injured and something happens, it may not be that way for you. That may not. If there’s interest, if he can get in that first or second round I think it would be pretty much a done deal.  That’s just me. I don’t know that for sure. That’s what I think would be the outcome if that happens.”
Burrus said he’s had some conversations with the family and some brief discussions with Watford when the Hoosiers were in Atlanta for the NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinals against Kentucky. He said Watford was waffling back and forth at the time, but the idea was something he was very much considering and he’s trying to figure out exactly how much interest there is in him at the next level.

Burrus can confirm that there is at least some. He said several scouts and other player personnel employees for NBA teams have called doing background checks, trying to find out about Watford’s personality and about his character.

“They were just basically asking stuff like, ‘Was he a good practice player?’” Burrus said. “‘Did he do well in his classes?’ Just general basic stuff about him and his practice habits. … That’s a real plus for him. He’s never been in trouble. Grades have always been good. I’m sure they’re finding that out.”

Burrus said his impression from NBA scouts is that they like his versatility, but have some concerns about his strength.

“They like his ability to play and defend multiple positions from what I can tell,” Burrus said. “From point guard to shooting guard to forward. Their biggest question is the same one that usually comes up with size and strength, physically. Would he be able to play the 4? Would he be able to play the 3? That kind of thing.”

He did say that Indiana’s potential to built on its Sweet 16 run is something that would make him consider staying.

““It’s hard to turn down the kind of money those guys are making,  especially when you’ve got a degree,” Burrus said. “…(But) that would be a definite thing that would have to be considered. You made it as far as you did this year with a team that wasn’t expected to be that good. From the recruits they got coming in it appears that they’re going to be better.”


  1. So Watford already has his degree? That part was confusing to me. If he does, leaving makes more sense to me.

  2. Most of these guys get their degrees in three years now with all the summer classes they take. I’d venture to guess he’d wrap up his degree this year, but I don’t think anyone has stated for certain.

  3. Dustin,

    This is way off the topic but the mention in your story of players possibly getting injured made me think of it. Do you know the answer to this: I assume VJIII’s rehab is going to take some time and won’t be completed by the time his scholarship ends, so will IU continue to provide for this or is he on his own? I sort of guess they’ll continue, but how do they do that, do you know? Thanks.

  4. Say it with me Podunker… Speculative puff…

    Oh, wait it was Dustin… Never mind. Sorry Po, just giving myself a chuckle.

  5. That’s kinda close to the NFL rule but if you go into the NFL at 19 there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be killed.

  6. Boomer, legally, IU can probably only offer need/merit based financial aid. I don’t think the athletic department could provide aid (unless you were at Kentucky where they would just give you a briefcase of unmarked bills).

  7. Boomer,
    Not entirely certain how that works actually. But I do think they pay for his insurance for basketball related injuries. That’s my guess, anyway. Not entirely certain how rehab works or how that gets paid for.

  8. So I’m sure there will be an article abut this tomorrow, but from watching Yogi in this game you can tell a couple things…

    1) he has 3 gears that no one else on the IU roster currently has. He is the fastest player in this damn game by a LOT!

    2) he is sneaky, crafty, and super-quick on defense.

    The other thing I know from watching this game is that I don’t want Muhammed going to UK. Anywhere but UK.

  9. Very telling… West is dominating up until 7 minute mark of second half. Yogi leaves the game, up 20. East promptly goes on a big run to get it down to 5 points. West calls a TO and the coach puts Yogi back in. He gets 3 assists and a FT on the next 5 possessions leading to 9 points, and on the possession they didn’t score Yogi penetrated and kicked out for a wide open 3 that was missed.

    Run stopped. Game sewn up. Yogi became the story at the end – winning time.

    He is better than I thought. I may have to adjust some of my expectations for Hulls PT.

  10. Geoff, I watched YF play several AAU games less than a year ago and that is when I formed the opinion I have for his future at IU. IU will still need that outside shooting from the guard spot next year and if MO Creek is not ready and sharp JH has to be that man even if for an interim. But yes YF terrorizes a D. His play will make as big a difference next year as Zeller did this year. I would suspect Crean can’t sleep with the thoughts of all the options next year.

  11. Thanks, Dustin. With other players who’ve gotten injured, we always hear how great IU’s doctors and trainers are and how they help with the rehabilitation and I just wondered what happens to a player who gets hurt near the end of his senior year. Thanks for your insight.

  12. I hope Christian stays because next season could be historic if we keep the team together. But if he goes, then I wish him well. If he had done nothing but hit The Sacred Shot against Kentucky, he’d be one of my favorite players. So, please stay CW, but if not, we’ll always remember you fondly.

    Yogi Ferrell is ridiculously good. The play where he intercepted a pass on the East’s fast break, then took it up the court and threw a long bounce pass to somebody for a dunk was awesome. Plus a couple of drive and kick for a 3-pointer plays–I imagined Hulls/Sheehey/Elston/Watford/Creek on the receiving end of those passes and Cody down low with Perea to control the boards if the 3 should miss–well, this makes me happy. VERY happy.

  13. With all of the current reports out on Muhammed,KY is probably the only place he could go! Unless Bruce Pearl found a gig somewhere! Rumor has it he even got a call from Sampson!There are issues according to several national sports reports! He just needs to go to the NBA where no one cares and there are few rules !

  14. Yogi is scary good!Watford needs to stay he is not ready,far from it !Too soft ,unconsistant from game to game. The NBA is not a walk in the park!Only the strong survive! Maybe a call to Jay Edwards or Bracey Wright ? Jordy will be the 2 and maybe the 1 if Yogi is in foul trouble. Yogi will make everyone else better! I wonder who will be the first guy to get hit in the back of the head with the ball? McDonalds All Star game was hard to watch,even though they said they would make it like a real game it really never was.Without Yogi his team would have lost. Truely a chance for all uncommited players to show all the coaches what they could do.

  15. I just don’t see CW being drafted in the top 60 this year. He simply was not consistent enough through the year. His good games were great, but there were a lot of games where he was invisible.

    But the news that he is likely to complete his degree this May is outstanding. If that’s true, then I wish him the best, regardless of what he decides. Once a young man get’s his degree, I’ll enthusiastically support whatever decision they make. If he’s smart, he’s using all his resources to determine the likelihood of getting drafted and making a roster, without getting an agent.

    My guess is that if he leaves, he’ll be playing in Europe next year. If he stays, IU should get to the final four.

  16. Listened to an interesting interview with Danny Ainge today on WEEI’s the BIg Show. They started down a line of questioning about if Austin Rivers is available and they perceive him to be the best player on the board would they draft him? After a few minutes of wrestling to get more info from him they turned to more general questions about the draft and this is almost verbatim the conversation:

    Michael Holley: Have any of the performances in the NCAA tournament changed your mind about individual players?

    Ainge: No. We evaluate players over a much longer time frame, so how they perform over a small stretch of games doesn’t really effect our thought process. Also, especially in the first round, are drafting on potential more than anything else. Now, are there players that we were already aware of that performed well and now may merit some further investigation, sure. But I wouldn’t say that a players performance in a game or two really effects our overall evaluation.

    Now could Ainge be throwing out a little bit of “puff”, knowing very well that they have identified a new player that they have moved way up their draft boards? I guess that’s possible, but I genuinely believe that this is the overall attitude of not only the Celtics, but of all NBA GM’s. They spend gobs of money on scouting and player development, and know what types of players they can work with and what is worth the risk. Why, after doing 2 or 3 years of evaluation on any player (not just Watford) would they rip up their sheets and start over based on a couple good games?

    Also, I forgot to say this earlier… I think that the premise of this story and Burrus’ theory is a big fat “DUH!”

    If a player who hasn’t been viewed as a viable NBA player is all of a sudden going to get a promise to be drafted then of course they would or should go into the draft. Strike while the iron is hot!

    I just don’t think the iron is hot…

  17. CWAT needs to stay in school. He is not ready for the NBA. He plays below the rim and in the NBA that won’t work. If he stays he will get to play and hone his skills. He will also get stronger and while all that is going on he will have fun winning this season. If he goes now I will root for him but he will not make it. If he gets guarenteed money he had better save it because it will be short lived. My advice is to stay in school and play.

  18. So true. Because he does not play above the rim he needs to develop, improve and expand his floor game to be viable for pro ball. Another 5-8 pounds of muscle would not hurt either.

  19. From reading Peegs, it really looks like Watford is leaving.

    I think it’s a stupid decision but I wish him luck.

  20. Harvard, I cannot lie… puff the magic dragon was always one of my very favorite songs as a kid.

    That and the theme songs from The Greatest American Hero and Welcome Back Kotter, oh and WKRP in Cincinatti

    Not sure why all my favorite childhood tunes are theme songs… That’s kinda weird.

  21. I think the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on television was the WKRP Thanksgiving promotion where Les Nessman was tossing turkeys out of the helicopter.

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