Chris Denson looking to overcome doubters, garner selection in NBA draft

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comJune 25, 2014 

Mississippi St Auburn Basketball

Auburn guard Chris Denson (3) scores against Mississippi State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.

JULIE BENNETT — AP

AUBURN, Ala. — Proving doubters wrong is old hat for Chris Denson by now.

On the eve of the NBA draft Thursday night, he'll have to do so again. Even after finishing second in the Southeastern Conference in points per game (19.2) this past season, it's no guarantee that he'll find himself among the 60 players taken in the draft.

Count Jay Bilas among those who would be surprised to hear Denson's name called Thursday.

"He's a small guard, 6-2, 6-1 and had a nice season. But he's not a great passer and he'd have to be a point guard in the NBA. I don't see him getting drafted," Bilas said during a conference call Tuesday. "Good player, but I don't see him getting drafted and I think he's going to have to go to camp as an undrafted free agent and pick the right situation to make a team."

Bilas, a college basketball analyst and NBA draft expert for ESPN, pointed out that the former Auburn guard's borderline status isn't all of his own doing. Instead, it's a function of the draft itself. Bilas believes this is a particularly good year for point guards, which is the position Denson would have to play in the NBA.

With that in mind, there simply might not enough picks to go around.

"I'm not sure that Chris does anything that would really stand out among this draft class (enough) that he would be taken," Bilas said.

It's a similar situation to the one the Shaw alum encountered upon arriving in Auburn. Former Auburn coach Tony Barbee called Denson "one of the least-prepared" players he had ever seen.

It's an assertion Denson didn't dispute.

"I came here with no understanding of team defense," he told the Ledger-Enquirer in March. "I just knew, 'Guard my man.' I didn't know help side. I didn't know what to do on ball screens, but that was part of me learning as a player."

But he improved in leaps and bounds by the end of his senior season, especially offensively. He scored in double-figures in 26 of the Tigers' 30 games last year, with 13 20-point games, eight 25-point efforts and a pair of 30-point outings.

In addition, he finished the season second on the team in assists and third in rebounds.

None of it has insulated him against the prospect of going undrafted.

"He's going to have go in and scrap and prove himself," Bilas said. "I don't count anybody out in being able to do that, but it's a difficult road."

Repeated attempts to reach Denson on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

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