Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe works out for Hawks

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

In a matter of hours, one chapter of Michael Devoe’s life was closing and another opening.

On Monday morning, the former Georgia Tech guard was one of six NBA draft hopefuls working out at the Hawks facility before coaches and scouts. Later that day, he was to take his last final exam – dreaded finite math – as a Tech student to complete his requirements for his business administration degree.

“I’m so happy,” Devoe said after the workout. “It’s like all the stress is off my shoulders.”

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Compared with trying to solve questions related to matrices, linear equations and game theory, among other subjects, Devoe was partial to playing 3-on-3 and going through drills that would help determine the course of his playing career.

“This is basketball,” said Devoe, garbed in Hawks workout gear and standing before a battery of local TV news cameras. “It’s something I love to do.”

The other five prospects Monday at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex were Utah State forward Justin Bean, LSU forward Darius Days, Missouri State forward Gaige Prim, Oregon guard Will Richardson (from Hinesville) and Syracuse forward Cole Swider. It was the first workout the Hawks have held for draft prospects this offseason. It was Devoe’s second, following one with the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

“It was a great privilege to come out here and play and work out with these guys, too,” Devoe said.

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Devoe would appear to be in a similar situation as his former teammates, Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright, after they also chose to forgo their extra season of eligibility to turn professional last year. Devoe has a solid college résumé, earning third-team All-ACC honors this past season and finishing 12th on Tech’s all-time scoring list. He likely has a shot at getting drafted and a spot in the NBA – as was the case with Alvarado and Wright as they began pre-draft workouts – but neither is a certainty.

“I just want to get that opportunity, really,” Devoe said.

Wright and Alvarado have charted paths for him (as well as fellow Tech draft hopeful Jordan Usher) as he attempts to become the fourth Yellow Jackets player coached by Josh Pastner to reach the NBA. Neither was drafted but both ultimately reached the NBA as rookies, Wright as a G League call-up for the Los Angeles Clippers and then with a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Alvarado became one of the feel-good stories of the NBA this season as he went from going undrafted and signing a two-way contract with the New Orleans Pelicans to earning a spot in the rotation, signing a four-year, $6.5 million contract and helping the Pelicans push the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to six games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

“I saw it every day in practice,” Devoe said of Alvarado’s defensive heat that has made him a fan favorite in New Orleans. “I’ve literally got goosebumps right now just talking about it just because of how his heart and his tenacity are just every day. He’s a pit bull out there.”

“I'm so happy. It's like all the stress is off my shoulders."

- former Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe

Devoe said Alvarado had shared advice with him about managing the pre-draft process, “but I want to keep it to myself. I’ve got to keep that under my belt.”

Devoe’s first days in the draft marketplace have gone well. Invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a four-day pre-draft showcase in Virginia, Devoe won tournament MVP honors by leading his team to a 3-0 record as he scored 54 points with 21 rebounds, 17 assists against eight turnovers and seven steals. He made 18 of 31 field-goal tries.

Without the burden of trying to carry his team, Devoe felt freed, and the numbers indicated as much.

“Kind of toward the end of the season, I struggled a little bit as teams locked in on me and (were) denying me and all those type of things,” Devoe said. In Portsmouth, “I was able to go out there with just a stress-free (mindset) and just go out there and just play.”

As Tech’s season wore on, Devoe’s frustration over his play, in particular not getting foul calls, was clear. His three games in the showcase, without opponents gearing up to stop him, were refreshing.

“It felt amazing, actually,” Devoe said.

Winning MVP at Portsmouth is not a ticket to the NBA, but being the best player in a field of 64 draft prospects (Usher also took part) bodes well. Of the past 10 players to win the award, eight were invited to the NBA draft combine, a much more high-profile showcase event than Portsmouth. Six went on to play in the NBA, and five played at least 75 games. NBA star Jimmy Butler was the 2011 MVP.

Devoe said Monday that he didn’t have any more workouts scheduled, but they are surely coming. He’ll graduate Saturday and will base himself out of Miami until the draft, training and traveling to workouts.

“It’s definitely a chance to live a dream,” he said.