NBA Draft Diary: Avis Wyatt

NBA Draft Diary: Avis Wyatt
Apr 26, 2007, 06:38 pm
What do Ben Wallace, Darrell Armstrong, Flip Murray and Charles Oakley have in common? Aside from being hard-nosed players, they all played their college basketball in the CIAA. Avis Wyatt is now trying to join the select number of CIAA players to make the jump to the NBA.


A tall and very athletic forward, Wyatt spent his college career at Virginia State, where he helped lead the Trojans to a 20-8 record during his senior season. Of course, any time a player outside of D-1 basketball is good enough to draw looks from NBA scouts, the question always is, why isn’t he playing at a bigger school?

“I think that’s because I didn’t really start playing basketball seriously until the 11th grade, so I wasn’t really highly recruited out of high school by anyone,” he said.

Wyatt initially started playing JV basketball at Petersburg High School in Virginia. The team didn’t make cuts, so Wyatt, who wasn’t even six feet at the time, was able to play on the team. His life would quickly change though when a massive growth spurt left him standing 6’8” by the start of his senior year. Still, with so little experience playing basketball, only Virginia State came calling for his services.

“When I came out of high school, Coach Booker, he was the coach at Virginia State at the time; he came to see me play at the team camp at Richmond,” he said. “I didn’t really get any other offers that I can remember. I enrolled at Virginia State like a week before registration began.”

The decision to attend Virginia State would elevate Wyatt’s budding basketball career, but first he had to adapt to the entirely new world of playing at the college level.

“When I first came to Virginia State, it was a whole new atmosphere for me,” he said. I had never played AAU or anything like that; it was just high school ball. So coming to college, it was just me. The freshman I came in with, though, we all became pretty tight.”

In the early years of his career, Wyatt stated that Virginia State only drew fans to games who were looking to see them lose. With three different coaches in his first three seasons with the team, Wyatt and his teammates had to endure a lot on the basketball court. He added though that the hardship of losing early on and having to adapt to different coaches has made him a better person in the long run.

Like so many other college players across the country, when the buzzer sounded in the final game of his career, things were just beginning for Wyatt, who went on to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Despite injuring himself in his team’s second game of the weekend, Wyatt seemed pleased with his performance on the floor.

“I think the first game, I got to showcase a lot of my athleticism and my abilities,” he said. “I was able to handle ball a little bit, show off my shooting touch; I think I played well within the team, but all-in-all I don’t think I showed all that I can do.”

For Wyatt, the weekend may have been more exciting than for any of the other players in attendance. While the majority of the D-1 players at the camp were used to the extravaganza that is big time college basketball, Wyatt was coming from a much smaller background.

“It was really exciting coming in before the games even started because most of those guys you see on TV at least three or four times a year; you know on ESPN highlights and all that, so it was good just to be on the team with some of those guys,” he said.

The experience became even more enjoyable for Wyatt when he got the opportunity to spend time with his new teammates away from the court.

“It was crazy because I felt like those are some guys I knew for way longer than just that week I got to spend with them,” he said. “At the end of camp we all exchanged numbers so we could keep in contact. Off the court it was real laid back, our whole team, no one was really an outcast. Everyone laughed and joked around.”

The only controversy of any sort that arose at Portsmouth was the question of Wyatt’s height. At Virginia State he was listed as 6’11”, while at Portsmouth he was measured at 6’9” in shoes [6’8 ½” without]. Wyatt has his own theories on the matter.

“I think I’m a legit 6’10”. At Portsmouth they measured us in shoes, but I had slippers on and I guess they used those as my shoes. But with basketball shoes on I think I’m 6’10”.”
While the height is a major plus for Wyatt, his weight is not. The athletic forward tips the scales at 220 pounds on a heavy day, and will need to increase his strength and weight before draft day. As Wyatt pointed out, though, his situation can’t be solved by simply eating more.

“I’m more or less faced with the challenge of trying to put on weight while maintaining my speed and athleticism,” he said. I’m working out with my coaches, trying to get on the right kind of diet. But really, I’d much rather get stronger than pick up a lot of bulky weight.”

Another less prominent question that has arisen has been regarding Wyatt’s statistics. As a senior he posted 17 points and 7 rebounds per game, very solid numbers, but not those that many would expect from a D-2 player looking to go pro. As Wyatt pointed out though, stats don’t tell the whole story.

“You can look at my stats, but it wouldn’t tell you about my game because I got those numbers within a system,” he said. There wasn’t one time during the season where we were going to razzle dazzle for me. I think that you would get a better understanding of how I got my points if you watch a game. I don’t think the stats really tell how I played at the Division 2 level.”

It is his speed and athleticism that makes Wyatt so appealing to NBA scouts who see him as a raw talent. Wyatt has said he feels that “raw” is an accurate was to describe him since he hasn’t been playing the game as long as most other players, and his skills may not be as polished; this hasn’t stopped him though from hypothesizing how he could help a pro team. The former Trojan says he sees himself falling somewhere between playing the small forward and power forward positions at the next level.

“I think a lot of it is going to fall on my ability to be in shape and run the floor hard every play,” he said. I think I need to work on my foot speed a lot so I can guard perimeter players. I think I can shoot the ball; I’ve already got a pretty good touch but as far as range, I need to get it out to NBA range and become more consistent with that.”

These are all aspects of his game that Wyatt will be working on tirelessly in the upcoming weeks. He’ll have extra motivation now with the possibility of showcasing his talents in front of scouts again with the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando looming, a camp that Wyatt recently received an alternate letter for.

“You know that was real big for me,” he said, “and I’m really excited about getting the chance to showcase my skills for the NBA scouts again. It just gives me another reason to work even harder; I’m going to work hard regardless, but it’s just that extra chance. Not a lot of people get that chance from my situation.”

With a thorough understanding of just how lucky he is, and a fiery determination, Wyatt is ready for the upcoming months of training. The athletic forward of course was able to put it best.

“I’ve got to get hungry, play hard every play, and be a guy who never takes a play off.”

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