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Jrue Holiday sees his future through the playoffs

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The UCLA guard hasn't decided to leave school, but watching the NBA playoffs gives him an outlet to study the pros and daydream.

May 02, 2009|David Wharton

When Jrue Holiday watches the NBA playoffs on television now, he sees the game in a different way.

The UCLA guard has spent the better part of two weeks at a Florida training center, gearing up for the possibility of entering the draft in June.

In addition to getting stronger, Holiday has learned how the pro game differs from college in terms of spacing, angles and situational play.

"In college, it's all about defense," he said. The NBA "seems like it's more fun. You can be you."

So much fun that the freshman extended his stay at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, past the originally planned week or so. But that doesn't mean he has decided to leave school.

At least not yet.

Though Holiday has made himself available for the draft, he has not hired an agent. Also, he is continuing classes at UCLA -- he says he made arrangements with professors to be away for his training sessions.

All of which leaves him the option of withdrawing his name. He has until mid-June, which leaves plenty of time for working out for NBA teams.

"I'm just really excited to get out there and play well," he said.

This has turned out to be an especially strong year for point guards, with names such as Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson in the mix.

Holiday has said he will base his decision on his estimated place in the draft. Various mock drafts currently have him from No. 20 to No. 27, lower than he hoped for.

Still, David Thorpe, executive director for the Pro Training Center at IMG -- he's also an NBA analyst for ESPN.com -- has been impressed with what he has seen.

Holiday has been working out with other first-round candidates, including Earl Clark, a small forward from Louisville, and point guard Nick Calathes from Florida.

Thorpe said Holiday's underwhelming statistics at UCLA this season -- he averaged 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists at shooting guard -- won't dissuade general managers who have scouted him since high school.

"NBA teams have their opinions already," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean he's a top-10 pick, but they know what they know."

The top point guards in the draft offer different skills, with several known more for offense. Holiday is seen as a distributor and, despite his occasional struggles at UCLA, a defender.

Thorpe said that NBA executives have told him they consider Holiday to be the best perimeter defender in the draft.

"No one doesn't need a pass-first guard who can play lock-down defense," Thorpe said.

Thorpe also likes Holiday's ability to listen and learn, a trait he says could make a big difference when players work out for NBA teams and the draft order reshuffles.

At UCLA, Coach Ben Howland can only wait, saying: "I hate this time of year. There's a lot of uncertainty."

Meanwhile, working out each day, watching NBA games at night, Holiday seems as if he is getting an inkling of the future.

"I think I'd fit in well," he said.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Jrue Holiday's freshman numbers

UCLA 2008-09

*--* Min. PPG RPG APG STL BLK 27.1 8.5 3.8 3.7 55 18 *--*

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