THE CHEAP SEATS with STEVE CAMERON: Give Norvell the benefit of the doubt

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YOUNG KWAK/Associated Press Guard Zach Norvell Jr. (23) has two more years of college eligibility remaining, and he has two more weeks to decide if he wants to remain in the NBA Draft.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love hearing from all of you.

Right now, though, I’m trying to avoid one question — especially since my computer is going to blow up with everyone going bonkers about Zach Norvell Jr.

You Zag nuts almost unanimously seem to feel that Zach is making a terrible mistake by keeping his name in the NBA draft instead of returning for another year at Gonzaga.

What’s amazing is the passion involved here.

Folks who understand perfectly why Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke would want to go off and make millions are tying themselves into knots over the notion that Norvell Jr. is “wasting” a year — and maybe costing himself a lot of money.

Ironically, only a fraction of you seem to begrudge Killian Tillie the opportunity to go test himself against other pro prospects, to see if he can stay healthy and compete with other big men in the draft.

I’M GOING to tackle this Norvell issue, but please make me a promise.

Let’s not go over the whole thing again until Zach has demonstrated his skills and competitive spirit at the NBA Combine — which starts today, in fact.

Zach’s insistence that he’s going to stick and stay through the draft could be the product of several things.

Maybe he wants to sound as confident as possible, which is most definitely part of Snacks’ makeup.

Or maybe he just wants to go earn a living playing pro ball, no matter where he does it.

Two years ago, Gonzaga star Nigel Williams-Goss left a year of eligibility on the table to enter the draft.

He was chosen 55th — near the very bottom of the second round — by the Utah Jazz, and then had an up-and-down experience at the NBA’s summer league.

Williams-Goss ultimately signed with a team in Serbia for $125,000 per year, but played extremely well and now has moved to Greece and reportedly has landed a three-year deal totaling $2 million.

Yes, as quite a few of you have pointed out, Williams-Goss was a much more complete player when he left school than Norvell Jr. is right now.

I agree with you, OK?

But Zach deserves a shot at the combine, and how he performs against his peers will give him an answer.

Us, too.

I wouldn’t discount him completely, either.

He’s more athletic and explosive than Williams-Goss, so theoretically you’d say he has more upside.

It only takes one NBA team to fall in love with what you might become.

Suddenly, entering the draft then looks like a wild success.

THERE IS the distinct possibility that Zach will discover that turning pro right now, on the other hand, might land him in the G-League or somewhere in Europe.

That’s what all the mock drafts suggest.

ESPN has published a big board rating the top 100 players available in the draft, and the people who do these things get plenty of input from the league’s scouts and executives — as do most of the other major draft predictors.

Rui and Clarke are rated somewhere between 10 and 20 in the first round on every draft board, but Norvell Jr. is only No. 77 (and Tillie No. 90) on that ESPN list. leaves both Zags off its 60-player draft board, as well — although they think Robert Franks of Wazzu is going to be taken by Boston with the 51st pick.

The CBS mock draft (100 players listed) has Tillie in the No. 52 slot, with Norvell Jr. missing out altogether.

When you take all these professional opinions together then, yes, it does look like Norvell Jr. is headed overseas if he wants to play pro basketball — and Tillie might have to scrap from the bottom of the draft to prove he’s durable and talented enough to help an NBA team.

But this isn’t the time for judgment.

Let’s see what happens at the combine and various other workouts.

The mock drafts will change considerably, and so might the plans of Zach Norvell Jr. and Killian Tillie.

For now, though, can we please wait and see?

Save the emails for May 29, when the deadline for returning to school has come and gone.

We might all be surprised.

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball once monthly during the offseason.


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