- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Illinois sophomore center Meyers Leonard and junior guard Brandon Paul have submitted their names to the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee to receive feedback on their draft stock, according to Illinois interim head coach Jerrance Howard.
Howard said the players would hear back from the committee sometime this week. College players have until April 8 to decide whether to enter the draft or remain in school.
Howard believes Leonard could leave Illinois early for the NBA, but it's unlikely for Paul.
Leonard, who is 7-foot-1 and 245 pounds, averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks this season. Paul (6-4, 200) averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals.
“Meyers, I think has a chance,” Howard said. “I think it’ll be good for Brandon to see where he’s at, to see what he has to work on. I think they’re two different situations. I definitely think they are both NBA talents. They do have to work on some things. I think it’s really smart if that’s your dream and you really have a chance to go get a good feel of what people are thinking about where you could go.”
Howard believes Leonard would have to consider entering the draft if the NBA committee told him he was a first-round pick. ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford has Leonard ranked No. 17 in the 2012 draft class.
“If they say that he’s a lottery pick or a first-rounder, I think you really got to sit down with his family and really make a good decision,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of stuff to talk about. If they’re saying he’s a lottery pick, I think it’ll be hard for him not to entertain it.”
Howard has tried to advise Leonard while he awaits the committee’s information.
“Be a college student, enjoy college and the University of Illinois and get to work,” Howard said. “He’s been in the weight room. Since the season has been over he hasn’t taken any time off work. He’s really grown up these last couple weeks. My advice to him is to be humble and go through the process. Don’t stress out about the NBA. Your first step was to be put your name to the advisory, get the information and go from there.”
Howard acknowledges Illinois could be different team if Leonard doesn't return.
“He’s a difference-maker; he’s one of the best big men in the country,” Howard said. “I think we have a chance to be really good either way. With our young guys and D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Joe Bertrand and Tyler Griffey coming back, I think we got a good balance. But definitely having a post guy like that really helps.”