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May 3, 2007NASHVILLE, Tenn. ? Derrick Byars was given one more chance to object or find an excuse, but he didn't budge.
The former Vanderbilt small forward gathered with media to discuss his preparations for the upcoming NBA Draft on Tuesday, but one reporter couldn't resist changing the subject.
"Did Jeff Green walk?" he asked.
"It's inconsequential," Byars answered with a broad smile. "It wouldn't have been a walk in the NBA though. That's for sure."
Byars is referring to Green's controversial game-winning shot ? in which he appeared to change his pivot foot before releasing the ball ? with 2.5 seconds to go that gave Georgetown a dramatic 66-65 win over Vandy in the Sweet 16.
The Hoyas would go on to reach the Final Four, while the Commodores were left to wonder what might have been.
Byars has plenty of reasons not to dwell on the non-call. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward from Memphis raised his draft stock more than perhaps any other player last season.
Long considered an underachiever, Byars put together a breakthrough campaign as a senior. He averaged 17 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game while leading the Commodores to a 22-12 record. He was voted the SEC Player of the Year by the league's coaches (the media selected Tennessee's Chris Lofton).
Byars came to Vandy three seasons ago as a high-profile transfer from Virginia, where he moved in and out of the starting lineup and never averaged more than 7.5 ppg.
"I don't know what would have happened (if I had stayed at Virginia)," Byars said. "It was looking pretty bleak. They had a bunch of wings at the time. Maybe I could have emerged from that pack and things would have worked out, maybe not."
Byars, who didn't consider leaving early for the NBA, is now being projected as high as a middle first-round pick on some mock draft boards. Vandy hasn't produced a first-round draft choice since 1988 - Will Perdue was taken with the 11th overall pick.
"I've heard that I'm all up and down boards," Byars said. "I've heard I could go as high as the late lottery. But it really doesn't matter what I've heard. I just want to give myself the best chance to go as high as I can."
"It will be grueling," Byars said. "I'll probably have two to three more workouts a week. I want to focus on my weaknesses. I've heard different things from different people, from needing to attack the rim more to getting my shot off quicker and also improving my mid-range game."
Byars, who says he probably will play shooting guard in the NBA, has contacted a number of former NBA players from the Memphis area for advice. Penny Hardaway, Elliot Perry and Cedric Henderson are a few of the players with which he has spoken.
"The NBA is definitely the top competition, and I feel I'm ready for it," Byars said. "If I'm not at 23, then I'll never be ready."
Depending on a team's perspective, Byars' age could help him or hurt him. Many times teams draft on potential and upside, in which case they may steer clear of Byars.
However, there are at least 46 early entrees (the NBA will release the official list later this week) in this draft, including 16 freshmen and sophomores. Byars, a fifth-year senior, will be one of the most experienced players available and may be able to help the right team immediately.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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