INDIANAPOLIS — Nicolas Claxton is on the fence as to whether he will return to Georgia for his junior season or stay in the NBA Draft.
“I’m not all in yet,” Claxton said following a predraft workout with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. “I still have a few days to make a decision. So we’ll continue to get our feedback, and then I’ll decide.”
Claxton made this point clear. If he leaves, it won’t be because of his current coach, former Indiana-turned-Georgia head man Tom Crean.
It would be easy to make that assumption based on last February, when Crean, in a postgame interview following a loss against Mississippi, said it was his fault for Georgia’s struggles because he “was the one who decided to keep these guys.”
Claxton, a sophomore, was one of the players Crean inherited from previous Georgia coach Mark Fox.
“We had to kind of go into damage control,” Claxton said. “We had to really get a handle on that, and Coach Crean he came, he apologized to us and we had a team meeting, and we got all of that under control.
“Of course, at first, when the guys heard it, we were mad, but we ended up talking it out, and it worked itself out.”
In fact, Claxton credited Crean for helping him develop into a better player during his breakout sophomore season. Claxton said Crean gave him more freedom to play on the perimeter and create off the dribble, and Claxton rewarded him by averaging 13 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
“I was able to show what I could do a lot more,” Claxton said. “My freshman year I played center, and this year I played all over the court. As a team, we struggled. Of course, I’m not happy about that, but I was able to show what I can do, and it helped my stock out a lot.
“He saw something in me. He had a vision for me, and he showed me the way that he would develop me throughout the year and just him constantly being on me about being a leader and continuing to have that positive attitude.”
Claxton described Crean’s coaching style as fiery and intense.
“You know you are going to get that out of him,” Claxton said. “I learned to love that because I’ve got a lot of energy myself. We feed off each other really well.”
Some mock drafts project Claxton as a possible late first-, early second-round pick. Georgia went 11-21 in Crean’s first season, but optimism is high for Year 2 based on the recruits Crean is bringing to Athens, Ga. Georgia landed the seventh-ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2019, led by 6-foot-4 shooting guard Anthony Edwards, the consensus top player in the nation in the 2019 class.
Claxton could find coming back for one more year under Crean’s development and playing with Edwards appealing.
“He really pushed me and got me better as a player and as a leader,” Claxton said of Crean. “I took some major strides on and off the court.”