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Snell to test his stock in NBA draft

Player unlikely to return UNM team

Tony Snell’s time at the University of New Mexico may be over.

Though his decision was made Monday, news went public Tuesday morning that the 6-foot-7 junior guard would ride the momentum of his national coming-out party at the Mountain West tournament and leave school early to enter the 2013 NBA draft.

Snell has not hired an agent and can retain his college eligibility until he does so or until the April 16 deadline to withdraw his name from the NBA Early Entry list. Sources close to Snell have confirmed to the Journal that he isn’t likely to be returning to the team next season.

UNM sports information director Frank Mercogliano said Snell would not be made available to discuss his decision nor would UNM head coach Steve Alford, other than releasing a one line prepared statement via email.

“Tony has decided to test the interest level of the NBA,” Alford’s statement read. “We are helping him to gather that information. He has until April 16 to make his decision.”

Journal voice and text messages left with Snell’s mother, Sherika Brown, were not returned, but close family friend and former AAU coach Marvin Lea said the decision was a long time coming and one that likely won’t be reversed.

“Skill-wise, it has never come back that he couldn’t play at that (NBA) level,” said Lea, who has coached Snell since his time playing on the Team Eleate AAU squad in California. “He just needed to show everybody else what he already had. He had to show he was a little more than just a knockdown shooter. He showed the scouts what they needed to see in terms of his defense and his length and his ability to rise to the occasion.”

The NCAA has an NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee that can give undergraduates like Snell a private evaluation of his projected draft prospects delivered by April 15, the day prior to the NCAA’s deadline for his decision.

Snell and his family will meet later this week with Alford and the coaching staff to discuss what information they’ve gathered from NBA sources and a decision on hiring an agent could be made after that meeting as opposed to waiting for the advisory committee report. The NBA’s deadline to declare for the draft is actually April 28, but the NCAA requires the decision by April 16 because April 17 is the first day of the spring signing period for recruiting and the organization wants schools to know before the signing period what scholarships may be available.

UNM has no open scholarships for the 2013-14 season, but could have as many as two open up in the coming weeks if Snell leaves for the NBA and if the school and suspended junior guard Demetrius Walker part ways after he has been away from the team since a Feb. 13 knee injury at Fresno State and later an indefinite suspension from the team March 2.

UNM coaches have been actively recruiting players for the 2013-14 season in recent weeks, perhaps in anticipation of either Snell or Walker’s scholarship becoming available.

Snell averaged 12.5 points per game for UNM this season and hit a team-high 64 3-pointers. Considering the balance-oriented offensive system the Lobos run, NBA scouts whom the Journal spoke with during the season never expressed concern about Snell’s numbers not being spectacular.

One scout told the Journal in January that Snell’s length and ability to get a shot off on the perimeter without much effort was his biggest asset, while vastly improved defense had become a plus since the last time that scout evaluated Snell in the 2011-12 season. One scout questioned whether Snell could endure the rigors of an 82-game NBA schedule plus playoffs, a concern not uncommon for any college prospect.

Snell has played in 104 of a possible 105 games in his UNM career, with the one missed game being as a freshman.

Snell made his most noise nationally during the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., when he was named MVP and such NBA executives as Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics) and Pat Riley (Miami Heat) were in attendance. Not only did Snell shine on offense with 17.7 points per game and 12 3-pointers in three games, he exhibited the type of defense that drew praise from Alford and other coaches throughout the tournament. Snell held 2012 MWC Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin to eight points on 3-of-12 shooting in a semifinal win over San Diego State.

UNLV head coach Dave Rice said after the Lobos beat his Rebels that Snell was definitely an NBA player, and CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb has raved on the air in recent weeks about the NBA potential of Snell.

Lea, who also helped mentor former San Diego State and current San Antonio Spur player Kawhi Leonard, said feedback he and Snell’s family have received in recent weeks about his NBA prospects helped lead to their decision.

Former Lobo Darington Hobson, who left school early after the 2010 Lobos lost as a No. 3 seed in the third round of the NCAA Tournament (this year’s Lobos were a No. 3 seed that lost in the second round), took to Twitter on Tuesday to express his concern about Snell’s decision.

Among Hobson’s posts Tuesday: “No Tony stay in school man” and “He just don’t know it’s another ball game at the professional level smh.”

LOBOS LINKS: Roster | Schedule/Results | Geoff Grammer’s blog

— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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