Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, an Edmonds native, smiles during the second half of a game against Eastern Washington on Dec. 21, 2019, in Spokane. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, an Edmonds native, smiles during the second half of a game against Eastern Washington on Dec. 21, 2019, in Spokane. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Kispert’s NBA draft decision on hold for now

The Edmonds native and Gonzaga junior is playing the waiting game with the pre-draft process unsettled.

By Jim Meehan / The Spokesman-Review

Corey Kispert isn’t sure what his future holds, but it’s nice to have options.

Kispert, an Edmonds native and King’s High School alum, declared for the NBA draft in April after his breakout junior season at Gonzaga. He’s been told by the NBA undergraduate draft advisory committee that he would probably be an early second-round pick.

If he decides to return to GU, the 6-foot-7 wing would be a key player for a team many expect to be the preseason No. 1 and one of the favorites to win the national championship.

“It’s the million dollar question,” said Kispert, when asked what would keep him in the draft and what would bring him back to GU. “I need to hear something from a team that has all the package to have me let go of my senior year, and that’s worth a lot. From the people here, the program, the atmosphere, the games we’re playing, it’s worth a lot.

“Knowing that I can be secure in whatever an NBA team offers me is basically what you have to weigh. At the end of day if I don’t get that, that’s perfectly fine with me. I’d be thrilled to come back for my senior year.”

Kispert covered a wide range of topics last week during a Northwest Passages Virtual Forum, including draft pros and cons, quarantine life, when the Zags might begin working out on campus and the outlook for next season if he returns.

Kispert understands fans and the coaching staff want to know his plans — and those of early entrant teammates Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev. Kispert wants to know, too, but he can’t make an informed decision yet with the predraft process still unsettled.

Wednesday’s deadline to withdraw from the draft has been moved back, but the new date hasn’t been announced. Most expect the draft, scheduled for June 25, will be pushed back, too.

An extension could give draft hopefuls a chance to work out for NBA teams later this summer and either help or hurt their stock. Teams can only conduct Zoom interviews with prospects because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kispert has been interviewed by roughly 15 teams.

“You can only tell so much about a potential player through a Zoom interview,” Kispert said. “In my case, it would be a really good thing to get in front of the right people and show them what I have face to face.

“It’s really tough to have that June 3 date moved back because you’re pretty much leaving everybody in limbo — guys like me, coach (Mark) Few, and they just don’t have any answers for anybody. As the NBA figures out what they want to do as far as continuing their season, we all just have to sit and wait.”

Gonzaga (31-2) won the West Coast Conference Tournament on March 10 in Las Vegas. The Zags appeared to be a lock to open the NCAA tournament at the Spokane Arena, but the NCAA announced March 11 that no fans would be permitted at any tournament games. One day later, the NCAA canceled the tournament in response to the outbreak.

“We should be on a very nice celebration of the season we had right about now,” Kispert said, “but obviously, things didn’t go the way we wanted.”

Kispert said he was a bit “stir crazy” during quarantine, turning to improvised workouts, puzzles and video games to stay busy. He worked on his game on the backyard hoop at the family home near Seattle.

“It’s pretty much as basic as you can get. I’ve been filling backpacks with rocks, going on runs with weighted vests,” he said. “Lifting has been a little trickier.”

The NCAA recently announced student-athletes can begin voluntary workouts at campus facilities on Monday, depending on state, county and the school guidelines.

“I think it’s pretty close. If not (Monday) it’ll be right around there,” Kispert said. “Coach Few and (assistant Tommy) Lloyd are being really proactive trying to get conversations going, not only with the athletic department but also the state and the city.

“We have a lot of guys who come from different countries that don’t really know any better but kind of stay in their apartment all day long. It’s starting to wear on them being in the same spot, so having an outlet they can go to like the gym to spend a few hours a day would be really good.”

Basketball analysts expect the Zags to be very good next season, particularly if Kispert, Ayayi and Petrusev opt to return. Gonzaga boasts its highest-ranked recruiting class with five-star guard Jalen Suggs, guard Dominick Harris and wing Julian Strawther.

“I think we’re going to live up to every single bit of hype,” Kispert said.

Gonzaga’s schedule includes marquee nonconference games against Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Texas Tech and a strong field at the Orlando (Florida) Invitational.

“I wish we could play more games like that,” Kispert said. “Those are the games you come here for.”

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