Penn State Basketball

Here’s why Penn State basketball’s Lamar Stevens declared early for the NBA draft

Penn State’s Lamar Stevens announced Tuesday that he was declaring early for the NBA draft.
Penn State’s Lamar Stevens announced Tuesday that he was declaring early for the NBA draft.

Penn State’s Lamar Stevens, a first-team All-Big Ten forward, announced Tuesday he was declaring for the NBA draft — but, due to a recent rule change, he can still change his mind immediately following the combine.

According to the NCAA, players can return to school if they request an Undergraduate Advisory Committee evaluation, take part in the NBA combine and inform their athletic director by May 29 that they’re remaining in school. Stevens has hired an agent, as allowed by the new rule announced last August, but also remains enrolled and is attending classes.

“This is my dream,” Stevens said at a press conference Tuesday. “And I feel like my game is really ready, and I’m really confident. ... But if I don’t get the feedback that I like or, if they tell me another year would really improve my stock, then I’m going to come back and help this team go to new heights.”

The advisory committee evaluation, which Stevens has already requested, will tell the rising senior he belongs in one of five categories: lottery pick, Nos. 15-30, Nos. 31-45, Nos. 40-60 or not drafted.

Based on current rankings, Stevens will likely have to step up his game to get selected in the June 20 draft. Basketball Insiders ranks him as the No. 91 NBA prospect, and only 60 players are chosen in the two-round draft.

Regardless, the 6-foot-8 forward is looking forward to proving himself to the scouts. NBA teams can start reaching out to underclassmen April 22, and the combine invitations are sent out April 26.

“I’m excited just to show my will to win in front of NBA people, whether it’s offense or defense,” Stevens added. “So it was definitely a no-brainer (to declare), especially with the new rules.”

If Stevens does choose to move on to the NBA, it would be a big loss for the Nittany Lions. Teammate Josh Reaves, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has already exhausted his eligibility. And Stevens finished second in the conference in scoring this past season, averaging 19.9 points per game, which was tied with Nebraska’s James Palmer. Only Purdue dynamo Carsen Edwards (24.6 ppg) scored more.

Stevens’ career so far has been solid after coming into Happy Valley with a lot of fanfare as a top-100 recruit in 2016. He started every game as a freshman and picked up two conference player of the week honors before moving on to an even better second year. As a sophomore, he was an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team and was named the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player with 19.2 ppg.

This past year, as a junior, he led the team in rebounds (7.7 rpg) in addition to his team-leading 19.9 ppg. No one logged more minutes on the floor.

But Stevens grew up wanting to play in the NBA. And the allure of reaching his dream was too tempting to pass up — especially considering he still has the ability to change his mind until May 29. (Originally, as proposed by the NCAA, he would’ve been able to change his mind after the draft. But the NBA did not pass a needed complementary rule to allow that for early entrants.)

“I’m just excited for this opportunity,” Stevens said.