Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado makes ‘very hard’ decision to stay in draft

Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado (10) celebrates his team's 80-75 win over Florida State in the championship game of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Credit: Gerry Broome

Credit: Gerry Broome

Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado (10) celebrates his team's 80-75 win over Florida State in the championship game of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado’s college career has come to an official end. On Wednesday, on the final day that all college players who declared early for the NBA draft could withdraw and maintain their NCAA eligibility, Alvarado made the decision to stay in the draft and pursue his professional career.

Alvarado made the announcement via social media just after 7 p.m., less than five hours before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline. In a tweet, Alvarado thanked Tech for a memorable journey and Yellow Jackets fans for their love and support.

“My dream has always been to play the game at the highest level,” he wrote. “That is why I have decided to pursue my dream of playing professional basketball and will remain in the draft.”

The NBA’s interest in Alvarado was made clear through his invitation to a G League camp before the draft combine and a series of workouts for NBA teams. Alvarado performed well at the camp and was said to have significantly helped his cause with scouts and decision-makers.

“I’m blessed with that schedule,” Alvarado said last week. “It means I’m doing something right. Hopefully, I’ll change a few people’s minds.”

“We love Jose,” coach Josh Pastner told the AJC on Wednesday night after the decision became public. “I’m so happy for him and so proud of him and support him 100%. He gave all of his blood, sweat and tears for four years for this program, and we wish him nothing but the very best.”

Pastner said that Alvarado had not decided earlier in the day Wednesday, and that the two spoke three times during the day as he tried to come to a final decision.

“I think (Wednesday), he finally started realizing that he just felt mentally ready to be a pro,” Pastner said. “He was mentally and physically ready.”

Pastner said that he shared with Alvarado his personal feelings and gave him some information to help him decide (he declined to share the nature of both) and told him he had his support no matter the decision.

“It was hard for him,” Pastner said. “He kept saying the hardest part is he felt like he was saying goodbye. But I just told him, ‘Hey, this is a new chapter for you. It was hard for him. This was very hard for him.”

It brings to a close one of the more remarkable Jackets careers in recent memory. While Pastner was the only ACC coach to offer him a scholarship coming out of New York, Alvarado was a starter from his first game as a freshman and then started in every game in his career that he was available to play in except one. While mistake prone as a freshman and sophomore, Alvarado infused the Jackets with his fire and relentlessness and quickly became a fan favorite.

He was named All-ACC as a junior and a senior, becoming the first Jackets player to twice earn that honor since Gani Lawal in 2009 and 2010. He was also named ACC defensive player of the year in March after leading the ACC in steals for the second season in a row. Most notably, he led Tech to its first ACC championship since 1993 and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010. He was nothing less than a cornerstone of Pastner’s efforts to lead the Jackets back to the tournament and national relevance.

The NCAA’s granting all winter- and spring-sports athletes an extra season of eligibility because of COVID-19 opened the possibility for Alvarado to play a rare fifth season, an opportunity that fellow seniors Bubba Parham and Jordan Usher have claimed. Alvarado, along with forward and ACC player of the year Moses Wright, decided that it was time for the next chapter.

Alvarado’s prospects for the July 29 draft are uncertain. However, even if he is not one of the 60 players selected, the chances of him getting a spot on an NBA summer-league team and then an invitation to a training camp, where he could earn a roster spot or a two-way contract (to play in both the NBA and G League), would seem strong.

Alvarado overcame the odds to become a Tech great. Jackets fans who’ve watched him play the past four seasons aren’t likely to bet against him making it in the NBA.

As he also wrote in his tweet, “Been here before, nothing else to do but double down!”

Without Alvarado, Pastner’s team remains stocked at guard. Michael Devoe, Kyle Sturdivant, Parham and Usher were all significant contributors this past season, with Devoe heading into his senior season poised to follow Alvarado as a four-year starter. Tristan Maxwell returns after an injury-plagued freshman season. Beyond that, Pastner welcomes three freshman guards, Dallan Coleman, Miles Kelly and Jalon Moore, who have shown well in summer workouts, as well as transfer point guard Deivon Smith, along with highly touted walk-on Jermontae Hill.

“I love our team that we have back,” Pastner said. “I mean, we’re going to be good. I love our team. It’s a great opportunity for guys to step up.”