Robert Upshaw’s dismissal from the University of Washington men’s basketball program might have cost him more than most analysts projected.
The talented but troubled 7-footer was not selected during Thursday’s NBA draft in New Jersey.
That rates as somewhat of a surprise, considering many mock drafts still included Upshaw’s name — mostly in the second round — during the week leading up to the draft, and though he was dismissed from two college programs in the past three years, his size and talent as a shot-blocker seemed too tantalizing for all 30 teams to pass up.
But all 60 picks — which included 10 centers — passed without Upshaw’s name being called. His off-court troubles — which he admitted recently included drug abuse — might have contributed to such a precipitous fall, though Upshaw was also reportedly flagged for a heart issue earlier this month at the NBA draft combine and had to suspend his training for a time because of it.
His agent, Bill Duffy, told DraftExpress.com that Upshaw was already aware of the condition and that doctors had cleared him to play with it in the past, but it’s possible that it caused some teams to stay away.
After the draft, Shams Charania of RealGm reported that Upshaw agreed to a summer league commitment with the Los Angeles Lakers. If he impresses, he will bolster his case to catch on with an NBA team.
Upshaw signed out of high school with hometown school Fresno State, where he lasted just one season before being dismissed due to repeated rules violations. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who had recruited Upshaw as a high school prospect, decided Upshaw was worth the risk and offered him a scholarship as a transfer in 2013-14.
While sitting out that season per NCAA rules, Upshaw was told to stay away from practices and games, with Romar explaining only that Upshaw needed to “take care of his business” off the court.
He must have, because when preseason practices began for 2014-15, Upshaw was a full participant. And once the season started, he began to justify his presence: In just 19 games, Upshaw shattered UW’s single-season blocks record with 85, a number that at the time led the Pac-12 by a wide margin.
Upshaw also averaged 10.9 points and 8.2 rebounds while playing 24.9 minutes per game, but it’s his defensive skills — his shot-blocking acumen and 7-foot-51/2-inch wingspan, in particular — that made him such an intriguing NBA prospect.
Off the court, Upshaw was a different story. With the Huskies holding a 14-5 record and still optimistic about their chances of making the NCAA tournament, Romar dismissed Upshaw for an undisclosed violation of team rules. UW won just three games the rest of the season and missed the postseason entirely.
Romar never specified the troubles that led to Upshaw’s dismissal, but Upshaw opened up about his battle with drug addiction in a recent story published by FOX Sports.
“I’ve got a lot of help in the last three months,” Upshaw told FOX. “Mentally. With everything. I got a lot of education about alcohol and drugs. I changed my ways. I had never really gotten the help before. Once I got that, I’m trying to set myself straight.”