Snell looking more like a first-round pick

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Lobo’s stock rises with NBA workouts

Tony Snell is still a man of few words.

No problem.

Since the 21-year-old former Lobo left the University of New Mexico early to enter the NBA Draft, there is plenty being said about him.

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And the chatter continues to grow as the June 27 draft draws near.

NBA Draft
When: 5 p.m. June 27
Where: Barclays Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
TV: ESPN

“They call me every day,” UNM coach Craig Neal said of NBA team executives. “I talk to three or four of them every day. And the more serious a team is getting, then all the questions come. Usually (early in the process in March and April) it was just … finding out the basics. But I’ve gotten more calls from general managers and decision makers the last couple weeks than ever before, so something must be going on.”

Snell, who talked to the Journal on Monday after his workout with the Minnesota Timberwolves and before flying to Dallas for a workout today with the Mavericks, has worked out for 13 NBA teams and likely will work out for six more by draft night. That is in addition to last month’s invitation-only NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago (representatives from all 30 NBA teams attended) and his June 1 pro-day workout for about a dozen teams in Los Angeles.

And what are they saying about when the Riverside, Calif., native might hear his name called on draft day?

“I leave all that to my agent,” Snell said. “The workouts have been going real good, but I don’t care where I get picked. All I worry about is hooping. … It’s a grind – hard process. If your mind isn’t into it, you won’t perform the way you need to perform.”

Players selected in the first round of the draft (the first 30 picks) are guaranteed NBA contracts. Players selected 31 through 60 or ones not drafted at all are guaranteed nothing, which is why so many thought Snell’s decision to leave school early after a very good but not always spectacular season with the Lobos was such a risk.

More and more, those who follow the NBA and cover the draft in depth are starting to form a consensus the gamble appears to be paying off. He has a chance, though certainly not a guarantee, to become the eighth Lobo selected in the first round of the draft.

Marc Spears, NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports, tweeted on June 11, “New Mexico guard Tony Snell’s draft stock is rising & he has solidified a spot in 1st round of NBA Draft, two NBA execs told Yahoo! Sports.”

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Last week an article posted online by Dime Magazine profiled the rising stock of Snell and carried the headline: “Meet the biggest sleeper in the 2013 NBA Draft: Tony Snell.”

Steve Kyler, editor and publisher of HoopsWorld.com and writer for USA Today, visited Snell in Los Angeles in early May where he has been tirelessly working out with Marvin Lea and Clint Parks for the past two and a half months.

“I think that he is a little underrated as an NBA prospect,” Kyler told the Journal in an email. “I think he has to work on his physical size; he is a little undersized. He is great with the basketball. … He’s in the mix for late first round pick and I think he’s a solid second round prospect; it’s hard to imagine that Tony doesn’t get drafted.”

Kyler’s prediction for Snell in the draft as of this past weekend was No. 36 (the sixth pick of the second round) to the Sacramento Kings. He said a best-case scenario for Snell would be “Tony going in the 20s” of the first round, noting that players like Snell’s close friend and former San Diego State rival Jamaal Franklin, Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. are all “arguably better NBA prospects.”

Aran Smith, president of NBADraft.net, was one of the first to put Snell’s name in the first round of a mock draft. As of Monday he was projecting Snell at No. 19 in the first round to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s hard to see him falling very far out of the first round,” Smith wrote in an email when asked to project the best and worst case draft scenario for Snell. “If so it would likely be within the top five or so picks.”

Smith added, “We’re probably as high on him as anyone. He’s better than Jamaal Franklin in our book.”

And through all the publicity about his draft prospects, Snell has tried to steer clear of all of it and do the only thing he’s ever really wanted to do.

“I’ll just wait until that day comes,” Snell said. “I’ve got workouts to deal with first. A lot of work still to do in the gym.”

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