Covington confident of NBA draft status even as concerns seem to mount

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 8:22pm

A month ago, most mock drafts included Robert Covington as a second-round pick.

Two days before the actual NBA Draft, the former Tennessee State forward’s name is missing from draft boards.

But ESPN NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford says it shouldn’t.

“I think he is a player that teams probably shouldn’t be sleeping on as much as they are,” Ford said on Tuesday. “He has got some abilities in steals, blocks, rebounds and 3-point shooting that sort of scream to me NBA role player.”

According to Ford, Covington’s stock has taken a dive as a result of struggles in workouts with NBA teams over the last four weeks. Ford said Covington has failed to differentiate himself as a second-pick. He believes the 6-foot-9, 216-pounder will most likely go undrafted, end up on a NBA summer league team with the hopes of receiving an invite to training camp.

Covington, 22, wraps up his workout schedule on Wednesday with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’ll then hop on a plane and return home to Chicago to watch the draft on Thursday (6:30 p.m., ESPN) with his parents and two younger brothers.

Already he has worked out with Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Utah. The Bulls brought him in for a second workout the next day with Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

“I have had great workouts and got a lot of good feedback from teams,” Covington said on Tuesday. “It is not about the mock drafts or anything. They are not the ones who are going to make the decision on where I go or anything. I have potential to go anywhere. I feel like I can be a first-round pick. But it is all off potential. Wherever I have the opportunity to hear my name called – whether it is the first or second round – it is just a number.

“A lot of people who are succeeding weren’t first-round draft picks.”

Covington finished his college career in March by leading the team in scoring for the third year. The three-time All-OVC selection finished seventh in school history in points (1,749) and rebounds (876).

As a senior, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds despite missing 10 games with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He also shot 38.8 percent from 3-point range (40-of-103), led the team with 39 blocks and was second behind point guard Patrick Miller with 50 steals.

That versatility has led many NBA scouts and executives to dub him as the “poor man’s Paul George,”

Ford said. George burst onto the scene this year in his third season with the Indiana Pacers by averaging 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. The 6-8, 221-pounder out of Fresno State, who was drafted 10th overall three years ago, really erupted in the playoffs. He averaged 19.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and shot 41.1 percent from the field.

“[Covington] is a little bit like a poor man’s Paul George with that size and that length and sort of skill set he has,” Ford said. “You hear people sort of talk about him as one of those sleepers because he is long. He is athletic. He can play a couple of positions on the floor. He has a 7-foot-2 wing span. He is 6-8 and he is a pretty good rebounder. You look at him – even though he has played at a small school – and say, ‘Well who has excelled like that?’”

Outside of Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, who Ford believes will go in the first round, Covington and Murray State forward Ed Daniel are the Ohio Valley Conference’s best chances of having a player drafted. The league last had multiple players taken in 2001.

Belmont shooting guard and co-OVC player of the year Ian Clark is considered a long shot to be the first Bruin drafted since 1972.

As far as Covington, his first of many “job interviews” was in April with the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia. He averaged 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in a field that featured 60 college seniors while scouts from all 30 teams on hand. He was then invited to NBA Draft Combine in May in Chicago and said he impressed scouts with his “overall competitiveness.”

At his workouts, he has received the same feedback. He must improve his ball handling, get stronger, tighten up defensively and move up and down the floor quicker. Teams also see his strengths as his versatility, rebounding and mid-range and 3-point shooting.

Covington’s natural position is small forward but he also played power forward at TSU. He says being viewed as “tweener” isn’t a hindrance.

The only mishaps at workouts, according to Covington, were two separate injuries. In Houston, he tweaked his ankle and banged his right knee, which was surgically repaired in December. Covington described the injuries as “nothing too serious.” Then, later in Utah, he took an elbow to his nose.

“With that high altitude, it wouldn’t stop bleeding,” Covington said. “I ended up finishing the workout. I just didn’t do a lot of the other drills.”

On Thursday, he hopes his quest to impress potential employers will come to end.

If he is drafted, he’ll be the 22nd TSU player selected and the first since Carlos Rogers in 1994.

“I’m just ready to see where I’m going to end up,” Covington said. “It is just about once I get the opportunity once I get in there to showcase my abilities then that is what determines what type of player you are… It would be great after all the hard work I’ve put in over my college career to put me in a position that I’m in. I’m just grateful for the opportunity and hopefully I’ll be able to hear my name on Thursday.”