CEDAR FALLS — AJ Green is determined to take the steps necessary to one day play in the NBA.
The Missouri Valley Conference’s 2020 Larry Bird Player of the Year also still has a lot of goals that he would like to accomplish inside his hometown at the University of Northern Iowa.
Green declared Saturday as an early entrant into the 2020 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard doesn’t plan to hire an agent and will still be able maintain his college eligibility.
“As of right now I don’t plan on leaving,” Green said. “I’m doing this to get feedback and try to learn as much as possible about the whole process and about how I can get better.”
Green excelled through his second tour inside the MVC last season, averaging 21.8 points on 45% shooting from the field, 44% from 3-point range and 93.6% from the free throw line against league opponents. UNI coach Ben Jacobson met with Green and his family at the end of the season in order to get a feel for his interest in testing the draft process.
The Panthers’ coach then got in touch with multiple contacts in the NBA. Some scouts have already seen Green play and others have him on their radar for next season. The feedback Jacobson received was fairly consistent.
“There are some teams that do like him already and there are some teams that feel like he’s got some areas that he needs to get better,” Jacobson related.
The timeline and ability for draft prospects to work out with teams will depend largely on when or if the current suspended NBA season resumes. Video interviews are the part of the process Green is looking forward to as he attempts to gain in-depth analysis on where he stands within the draft class and what he can do to improve.
“Hopefully, I’ll take that and make myself a better player and make our team better for next year,” Green said.
During this unique offseason Green has been fortunate to have access to a gym where he’s worked out with former UNI all-American Seth Tuttle. Tuttle’s 6-foot-8 length allows Green to finish against contact and build more creativity during one-on-one games from the elbow to the low post.
“I’m trying to stick with him most of the time,” Green said. “He can still hoop for sure.
“He pushes me and I can push him, as well. We’re able to get together quite a bit in the gym and workout and get better. That’s really how you improve the most is playing against players like him.”
Back home, Green has the luxury of being able to shoot hoops with his parents, Kyle and Michele, and sister, Emerson, who will enter UNI’s women’s program as a freshman.
“Anytime we can go out and shoot as a family or my sister and I can rebound for each other and get some shots up, we’re always doing that,” Green said. “That’s kind of just how our family is, a hoops family.”
A fairly polished product on offense, Green has also been heavily involved in strength training to improve his physicality, footwork and on-ball defense.
“I want to continue to become strong and more athletic any way I can, especially on defense,” Green said. “I want to become a better defensive player in terms of being able to move my feet and guard somebody one-on-one and really lock down. That’s something I’m going to continue to work on.”
Jacobson remains confident that Green is on a path that leads to the NBA, whether that’s prior to or after his senior year of college.
“An extremely important part of this is his thirst for feedback,” Jacobson said. “The reason I believe he’s going to play in the NBA is a combination of being a very good player, always wanting feedback and then the desire, commitment and determination to work on what people are telling him so that he can keep getting better.”
Ultimately, Green acknowledged it’s hard for him to say at this point what he’d need to hear from teams or what would need to happen in order for him to make a decision to leave UNI early. It might not be an easy one if he continues to progress as a junior.
“I know personally I still have a lot of goals and things that I want to get done here at UNI and that my teammates want to get done, as well,” Green said. “Right now, at this point, I’m thinking about the future and the NBA stuff and going through this process.