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Lillard prepares for NBA draft

A big day is approaching for Weber State University’s Damian Lillard. Since making his decision in April to waive his senior season of basketball, in order to declare for the 2012 NBA Draft, Lillard continues to compete in what many experts consider a very promising draft class.

After his announcement to enter the draft, the former WSU star returned to his hometown of Oakland, Calif., to continue his training. He works many hours daily with a strength coach and a trainer, until the June 28 NBA draft.

Lillard, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound point guard, is coming off one of the greatest statistical basketball seasons for any individual player in WSU history. Lillard averaged 24.5 points per game, finishing second in the nation in a tight, season-long race with Oakland University’s Reggie Hamilton to be Division I basketball’s scoring champion.

Chad Ford, an ESPN draft analyst, attended a workout for Lillard in Oakland on Saturday morning and said he was surprised at the guard’s work ethic.

Ford posted on his Twitter account his feelings about Lillard’s workout session.

“Lillard (is) going through one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever seen,” Ford tweeted. “Grueling. Zero questions about what kind of shape he’s in. Lillard (is) hitting just about every shot here despite being run into the ground by his trainer.”

Ford also said he was impressed by Lillard’s work ethic, saying he feels Lillard is a top-10 pick.

WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe said he is excited for Lillard and proud of the work he has put in to reach the point where he is now.

“He is a terrific player, but he’s even a better person and has represented us so well,” Rahe said. “No one I have been associated has worked harder than he has, and I couldn’t be prouder for him.”

While Lillard is recognized generally as a shoot-first point guard, his other statistics show a promising future and many possibilities. Along with his average of 24.5 points per game, he also had an average of 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Lillard also shot 88.7  percent from the free-throw line, one of the highest percentages in the nation, as well as shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc.

The five-time Big Sky Player of the Week led the 2011-12 Wildcat basketball team to a 25-7 record overall, including a record of 14-2 in Big Sky Conference play. The Wildcats faced the University of Montana in the Big Sky Championship, but lost the game with a score of 65-85.

In the latest mock draft on, Lillard is projected at going to the Portland Trail Blazers, who have the sixth pick in the draft. He is also projected to be the first point guard taken in the draft.

Lillard said he is thankful for his time at WSU and is looking forward to moving on to the NBA.

“I want to thank everyone that has helped me get to this point,” Lillard said. “I have loved my time at Weber State and am looking forward to playing at the next level.”

The 2012 NBA Draft will be held on June 28 in Newark, N.J.

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