On Friday, Hoosier guard and former Park Tudor standout Yogi Ferrell followed in the footsteps of teammate Troy Williams (IU) as well as IPFW's Max Landis, Purdue's Caleb Swanigan, and Kellen Dunham of Butler to become the fifth local college prospect to workout for the Indiana Pacers ahead of next Thursday's NBA Draft.
Ferrell, who was named to the 2016 AP All-American Third Team and 2016 All-Big Ten Defensive Team, averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.1 steals on 46 percent shooting during his senior season at Indiana University.
Still, after leading the Cream & Crimson to two Big Ten titles in four seasons, the widely considered all-time Hoosier's uptempo heavy pick-and-roll game earned him only an alternate invite to the Draft Combine largely due to concerns about his diminutive stature. As Indiana's career-leader in assists (633), Ferrell demonstrated the ability to set the table for his teammates when his speed and reliance on pull-up jumpers failed him; however, legitimate questions linger about his ability to avoid being punished by bigger guards on the other side of the ball.
"It was a bit of a challenge for me," Ferrell told Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss of working out against Kyle Collinsworth's height and length. "...I felt like it was good for me to try and test to see how I could go against bigger guards in the league, and felt like I did an OK job against him. So it was just practice for me."
Currently, the 6-foot-0, 178-pound guard remains outside the latest Mock Draft released by DraftExpress and sits at No. 63 on the site's list of Top 100 prospects. If Ferrell goes undrafted, performing well in front of Indiana's brass could potentially earn him a spot on the team's Orlando Summer League roster.
Yogi was joined at the Blue & Gold's seventh Pre-Draft workout by fellow seniors Kyle Collinsworth (BYU) and Georges Niang (Iowa State) as well as first round frontcourt prospects Cheick Diallo (Kansas), Ante Zizic (Croatia), and Brice Johnson (UNC), whose top-seeded Tar Heels eliminated Ferrell's Hoosiers, 101-86, in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
As a senior, Johnson averaged 17 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 61 percent shooting in 28 minutes per game and was named to the All-ACC First Team, All-Defensive Team, and selected as a consensus First Team All-American.
The 6-foot-9 small-ball forward's potential to extend his shooting range along with his ability to generate second-chance points and finish around (and above) the rim has some projecting him as a natural fit next to Myles Turner's stretch-shooting.
"I fit in perfectly," Johnson said of his compatibility with the Pacers. "I mean just being able to stretch out the floor, give Paul (George) his position back at the three. I could play the four, and you've got Myles (Turner) at the five. I can really stretch out the floor, I've just got to add a little weight to my body to be able to withstand an 82-game season. So, that's biggest thing just being able to put him back at his natural position because I'm quite sure he wants to go back there and do that anyways."
Though SB Nation's Kevin O'Connor recently wrote a piece about the diminishing role of rotational bigs in today's NBA, wherein he projects traditional centers to drop in the draft similar to the way running backs have in the NFL's equivalent, he pegs Johnson's mobility as a fit for Indiana if playing faster is still in the cards.
The Pacers were supposed to play more small ball last season, and if that's still a priority then selecting a small ball center like Johnson makes sense.
With Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill capable of leaving in free agency, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports sees Johnson as a means for the Pacers to fortify what could be a thinning front line.
Johnson was a monster while averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds and leading North Carolina to the national championship game. The quick leaper improved his stock enough to where going in the top 20 of this draft isn't out of the question. And for the Pacers, he would provide needed frontcourt depth.
Bleacher Report's Chris Rolling also pegs Johnson as Indiana's selection.
Sizing Johnson's leaping and rebounding ability up against Diallo's raw athleticism and Zizic's taller frame likely gave the Pacers a better first-hand sense of what they could have if they select the Chapel Hill product.
"It started off pretty slow," Johnson admitted to Hotchkiss. "This is my third one in three days, so it took me a minute to get it going there. But I finished off pretty well, and I really showed them what I can do. So, I'm really satisfied with the way I performed."