DeVon Hardin is going to have to hear something unexpected from NBA teams over the next couple of weeks to lure him away from Cal.

Actually, something revolutionary.

"Unless I'm that No.1 (overall) pick, Cal is going to be a top option for me," said the 6-foot-11 junior center, who will work out for perhaps half the NBA teams over two weeks beginning Tuesday, before making a final decision.

"It's a good option for me," he said of the possibility of returning to Berkeley for his senior season. "I want to take my team deep into the (NCAA) tournament, maybe to

the Final Four, be a lottery pick ... I expect great things from this (2007-08) team.

"That's what my mind-set is right now. I'm working out right now and looking forward to coming back to Cal. That's the only certain answer you can get from me."

Of course, things can change.

At the outset of last season, Hardin was regarded as an intriguing NBA prospect, a quick and explosive big man with shot-blocking and rebounding abilitieswho is able to run the floor. In spite of a still-developing offensive game, there are times when his potential zooms past impressive to downright scary.

But he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot Dec. 19 against Furman and sat out the rest of the season. Hardin is nowhere on any of the online projections for the June 28 NBA draft, which features a deep pool of prospects, topped by Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.


Advertisement

For Hardin, was it a case of out of sight, out of mind with the NBA?

Hardin decided to find out, declaring himself eligible for the draft, with the critical caveat that he did not hire an agent. That allows him to withdraw his name by the June 18 deadline and return to school.

On Sunday, the former Newark Memorial High star and his father, Michael, will travel to Orlando, Fla., site of this week's NBA predraft camp. Having not played in a game situation in more than five months, Hardin chose not to participate in the camp.

Instead, beginning Tuesday in Orlando, Hardin will give as many as 16 NBA teams that chance to visit with him and watch individual workouts during a whirlwind, cross-country tour that could include nine cities.

Because Hardin wants to preserve his college eligibility, the cost of the entire father-son adventure is being shouldered by the family. Michael Hardin looks at it as an investment in his son's future.

By June 18, Hardin presumably will have the feedback he needs. If the decision is to return to college, Hardin should have a checklist of areas in which the pros want to see improvement.

To prepare for his NBA auditions, Hardin worked out with a personal trainer over several weeks at the higher altitudes of Reno and Tahoe.

"My conditioning is great," he said. "I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been."

Hardin believes his understanding of the game progressed while he watched his team from the sideline last season, but also that the physical side of his game has improved.

"Right now, I'm better than when I went out," said Hardin, who averaged 10.7 points and 8.4 rebounds in 11 games last season.

Michael Hardin said that by serving as his son's "agent," he can assist DeVon without any conflicting motives. Both father and son said Cal coach Ben Braun has been helpful and supportive through the process, applying no pressure.

"It's a pretty good situation to be in to have multiple options, and all of them are good," Michael Hardin said. "We have no qualms, if he's not comfortable and confident about the draft, of him coming back to school. I think Cal will have a great team."

Hardin said it's tantalizing to envision playing an entire season alongside 6-9 forward Ryan Anderson, who averaged 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as a freshman last season.

"Having a guy like that on your team is invaluable," Hardin said. "If they pick me No. 1, I'm gone. Other than that, I'm not sure. I know nothing's guaranteed (in the draft), except returning to Cal."