This news slipped by SB Nation Minnesota when it first came out late last week, but Minnesota Golden Gophers big man Ralph Sampson III was listed among 69 NCAA underclassmen that declared for early entry into the 2011 NBA Draft.
Sampson, the son of the Ralph Sampson that became the first overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft of the Houston Rockets, will have until May 8 to decide if he wants to return to the University of Minnesota or turn to professional basketball with a year of college eligibility remaining.
The fact that Sampson has NBA size is a bonus, but it looks like his best bet would be returning to Minnesota next season (and not to play for the Timberwolves) as the early synopsis from the experts that noticed it seem to think he won't be drafted.
ESPN's Andy Katz wrote that "Sampson III surprised the coaching staff by declaring for the NBA draft and that "the coaching staff at Minnesota has no idea what Sampson III will do between now and May 8," but notes that "If Sampson were to leave, it wouldn't be a crushing blow because the Gophers "are befuddled by Sampson and his inability to be demonstrative and assertive on a regular basis."
Chad Ford, also of ESPN, wrote that even though Sampson's a long shot to get drafted, his size is intriguing and at least one NBA General Manager thought he could go in the second round.
It's unlikely that Sampson decides to keep his name in the NBA draft through next weekend, but if he does, it would mark the end of his oft-disappointing Golden Gophers' basketball career.