John Gilchrist was expected to travel to his home town of Virginia Beach yesterday after a morning workout with the Atlanta Hawks. The former Maryland guard said his commitment to providing for his family, including his girlfriend and infant daughter, was the main reason he withdrew from school to enter the NBA draft.
Unfortunately for Gilchrist, his road to the NBA will be more difficult than expected after he was not drafted last night. Sixty names were called but not Gilchrist's. He now must make the NBA via free agency or play next season in a developmental league or overseas. He said in late May that he would not have a problem initially playing overseas if he were not drafted.
Initially projected as a mid-second-round pick, Gilchrist helped himself with a strong showing in Chicago's pre-draft camp earlier this month. His performance would usually warrant being selected among the first 10 picks of the second round, a source familiar with the NBA's discussions involving Gilchrist said Monday, but Gilchrist's off-court issues significantly hampered his status and it was uncertain where he would be picked, if at all, even one day before the draft.
NBA personnel viewed Gilchrist as no better than the eighth-best point guard, among the likes of Marquette's Travis Diener and Duke's Daniel Ewing, both of whom were chosen over Gilchrist in the second round. Gilchrist, who chose to forgo his senior season, was the most valuable player of the 2004 ACC tournament, but he had a sub-par junior season, during which he frequently clashed with Coach Gary Williams about how to run the offense. Gilchrist acknowledged his uncertain draft status in an interview in May, saying that most of the questions NBA personnel asked him concerned what he called his nonexistent relationship with Williams. Gilchrist also said former college teammates did not always match his intensity in practice and last season was not fun because he received unfair criticism for the team's shortcomings. Those within Maryland's program consider his claims absurd.
When not traveling the country for private workouts, Gilchrist lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, spending afternoons working out at Saint Joseph's University with former local college players and current pros. He regularly trained at the Philadelphia 76ers' practice facility.
Gilchrist said he enjoyed the ambience city life offered and that he preferred to play on the East Coast near his family. Gilchrist knew where the money he planned to earn professionally would go first: paying the Howard University tuition for his longtime girlfriend; retiring his mother from her desk job; and buying his dream vehicle.
The training period was enjoyable, Gilchrist said, because it only involved basketball, not all the periphery responsibilities that existed in college basketball. During his first week working out for teams, Gilchrist met Memphis Grizzlies President Jerry West and worked out against college standouts Francisco Garcia (Louisville) and Nate Robinson (Washington).
Despite his projected draft status, Gilchrist felt he was at least as talented as the most hyped point guards in the draft, including Wake Forest's Chris Paul, Illinois' Deron Williams and North Carolina's Raymond Felton, all of whom were chosen among the top five selections overall. He had played against all of them since childhood and was confident he would be with them on an NBA court long into the future.
As the draft neared, Gilchrist was not preoccupied with thinking about draft day, adding that he was more focused on putting himself in position to solidify a 10-year career.
"What are the odds?" Gilchrist said at the time. "I'm going to beat the odds. It basically comes down to this: Can you play? Yes or no."