TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson told reporters on Monday that he wasn’t completely surprised by freshman forward Braxton Key’s decision to enter the 2017 NBA Draft.
During the Alabama basketball awards banquet, Johnson revealed that he and Key’s family had been discussing the possibility for “three weeks.”
“We’re hoping and praying that he’s back with us when we start our summer program,” Johnson said.
Key announced Monday afternoon that he would enter the NBA draft, but not hire an agent, which will allow him to maintain his amateurism. Key will have until May 24 to decide whether to remain in the NBA Draft or return to Alabama basketball for the 2017-18 season.
“It’s no surprise to me. We just want whatever is best for Braxton and his family,” Johnson said Monday. “Now that he’s in that process, the next step is going to be how many workouts he can get with NBA teams and if he’s going to get selected to go to Chicago for the pre-draft camp.
“Then at some point in May, he’ll have to make the best decision for him in terms of whether he wants to stay in the draft or not.”
Johnson said his main goal is helping a player decide what the best decision is for the player and their families. As someone with a long history in the NBA, Johnson believes it would be hypocritical of him to tell a player to return to school or that they’re making a bad decision without helping them explore all of their options.
Johnson wants to be a resource and help provide all of the necessary information. Johnson said Key’s size and his upside are both intriguing for the NBA level.
One thing to note is Johnson said he and Key have not had any conversations of Key pursuing a professional career overseas at this point.
“Basically the conversation I’ve had with Braxton is if he gets out of the draft, the idea is he’s going to be back here May 30 for summer school,” Johnson said.
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Key was named to the SEC All-Freshman team this past season after leading the Crimson Tide in scoring (12.0 ppg) and minutes (29.8) per game, while also topping the team in double-figure scoring games (20) and games scoring more than 20 points (3). He ranked second on the team in assists (2.5 apg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg).
In SEC play, Key ranked 17th in league games only with 14.0 points per game and 14th with 6.1 rebounds per contest. He was named the league’s freshman of the week on Jan. 30, after leading the Crimson Tide to wins at Georgia (Jan. 25) and vs. Mississippi State (Jan. 28). In those games, he averaged 22.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, while shooting 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) from the floor, 4-of-8 (50.0 percent) from three and 19-of-27 (70.8 percent) from the free-throw line.
“He meant a lot to this team this year,” Johnson said. “He’s a guy who played multiple positions. … He was a kid that we could move all around the floor. You pair him with a guy like Dazon Ingram, Riley Norris and AJ Jr. (Avery Johnson Jr.) and Donta Hall and a lot of the kids that we have coming back along with our redshirt Daniel Giddens and along with the freshmen class we have coming in. We think if we can keep it all together, we think we can have a team that can compete at a higher level next year.”