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Howard’s RJ Cole, MEAC Player of the Year, declares for NBA draft

He won’t get an agent until his chances are assessed at the NBA combine

Howard University sophomore RJ Cole will declare for the 2019 NBA draft but will not hire an agent, thus keeping his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility for the time being.

“Ultimately, my goal is to be a professional basketball player, to play in the NBA,” he said. “I need to learn more about the process and my game so I can understand what I need to work on in the future.”

Cole is hoping to become the first Bison player to be drafted directly from the university since Larry Spriggs in 1981. The 6-foot-1-inch, 185-pound point guard from Union, New Jersey, is currently ranked outside the ESPN Top 100.

Cole’s season ended March 20 when his team lost to Coastal Carolina in the College Basketball Invitational tournament. He had 14 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals in an all-around performance that former Bison coach Kevin Nickelberry says NBA teams are looking for.

“He’s definitely a pro, and he’s still 19 with room to grow, so it’s nice to have NBA scouts coming to our games and calling,” Nickelberry said. “RJ has the mentality of being ‘the’ guy, and he’s a savant with the ball. That’s what NBA teams are looking for.”

For Cole, who doesn’t turn 20 until Aug. 24, this is all about learning about the professional process.

“Right now it’s nerve-racking, but I feel like I’m in a good position,” he said. “Just dealing with my emotions, but I’m excited to go through the process.”

Cole led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in scoring this season with 21.4 points per game and was named the MEAC’s Player of the Year and an Associated Press All-American honorable mention.

Cole is the second notable player from a historically black school to declare for the draft, as Shaw’s Amir Hinton made the announcement on March 7. While Hinton has hired representation, Cole will wait to see if he will be invited to the NBA draft combine in Chicago in May to gauge his future prospects.

“I want to get a chance to make it to the NBA combine in Chicago, to show off my skills and catch a team’s eye,” he said.

The NBA draft combine is held in Chicago on May 15-19, with 69 players invited for interviews and on-court evaluations.

Eddie Maisonet is an associate editor for ESPN. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 snapbacks and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”