In an alternate universe, the Arizona Wildcats had two first-round picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.
After Lauri Markkanen was taken 7th overall by the Chicago Bulls, former Wildcat commit Terrance Ferguson was selected 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, Ferguson passed on the UA to play professionally with the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League, where he struggled mightily.
The bouncy 19-year-old forward averaged just 4.6 points in 15.2 minutes while shooting 38.1 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from 3, but he called playing overseas the best decision of his life, which is understandable.
Ferguson played against better competition, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour, and still ended up being a first-round pick in the NBA Draft (and if you’re critical of his decision, you should read his piece on Player’s Tribune to see his perspective).
“An injury or a bad year can ruin your career,” Ferguson wrote, “and I’m trying to take care of my family.”
Would Ferguson have been selected higher had he gone to Arizona? It’s obviously impossible to tell since there are so many factors to consider, but if he had struggled in college the same way he did in Australia, it seems unlikely that he would’ve been a first-round pick.
That said, one could make the argument that Ferguson may have fared far better in college playing against those his age, thus boosting his draft stock.
Either way, it’s hard to knock his decision if he’s content with it, plus it’s not a given that Ferguson would have qualified academically to play at Arizona anyway.
The 6-foot-7 forward is slotted to make roughly $1.5 million next season and is guaranteed over $5 million in the next three years.
Rabb not selected in first round
California Golden Bears sophomore forward Ivan Rabb did not hear his name called in the first round, instead being selected 35th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies.
The former Arizona recruit was projected to be a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but chose to return to Berkeley for his sophomore year, which may prove to be a costly decision.
The Golden Bears missed the NCAA Tournament and Rabb’s per 40 minute numbers were roughly the same as his freshman numbers, while his field goal percentage sharply dipped from 61.5 percent to 48.4 percent.
Rabb may still go on to have a successful NBA career, but he’s proof that returning to school isn’t always the best option.
As a lottery pick last season, Rabb would have been guaranteed at least $5.4 million in his first three seasons in the league.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire