by Aaron Beard, the Associated Press
Reggie Bullock knew it would be a challenge to play his way into the NBA draft's first round from the moment he decided to skip his final season at North Carolina.
He'll find out Thursday night whether he's done enough to reach that goal.
"Hopefully it all works out that I can be in the first round, but I'm not expecting anything," Bullock said. "I feel like I just need a chance. ... Wherever I land, I'm just glad to be in this process. I'm just going to work hard to be on an NBA team roster, and hopefully it'll all work out from there."
Bullock's decision in April was a bit of a surprise considering he's no lock to be among the first 30 picks that earn a guaranteed contract. Coach Roy Williams told him it would probably be better to come back to improve his chances, but the 6-foot-7 guard known for his outside shooting decided he was ready now.
Bullock has gone from growing up in a rough area marked by drugs and crime to traveling across the country for workouts and interviews with NBA teams that will determine his future.
Ryan Blake, senior director of NBA scouting operations, said he thinks Bullock could go late in the first or he could slide into the second in what he called "a beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder draft."
"I like him," Blake said. "I like defenders that can shoot. I think he has the ability to be more of an assertive go-to guy. ... He's got to improve his handle and some other things as well, but we can always nitpick any guy."
Chad Ford, an ESPN draft analyst, said he thinks Bullock could go as high as 15th to Milwaukee and doesn't expect him to slide past Indiana at No. 23.
"He's had a great process," Ford said. "A number of teams out there are looking for shooters that can stretch the floor. The feedback that I've gotten from the teams that have worked him out is that he has been one of the best of that group."
Bullock averaged 13.9 points and shot 43.6 percent on 3-pointers as a junior. He was also the team's No. 2 rebounder (6.5 per game) in a four-guard lineup, while his length made him a reliable perimeter defender.
Williams, UNC's Hall of Fame coach, said he supported Bullock's pursuit even though he was worried about Bullock's uncertain draft prospects when he decided to leave Chapel Hill. He said he's more optimistic now and is "just keeping my fingers crossed Thursday night."
"I think he has been very positive and very determined, and I like that about him," Williams said. "Reggie in his mind, he's going to make it. If you don't have that, you're not going to make it. But he has been very positive throughout the process and very determined, so that it makes it easier to accomplish because if you're hesitant, it really is difficult to do it."
NBA veteran and former all-star Jerry Stackhouse has known Bullock since Bullock was in middle school in their hometown of Kinston, N.C. Like Stackhouse, Bullock starred at Kinston High School before going to UNC and eventually becoming an early draft entrant.
Stackhouse, the No. 3 pick in 1995, has stayed in contact with Bullock through workouts with at least a dozen teams, telling him to compete hard and treat every stop like an audition. He said he's proud of Bullock for "taking ownership" of a decision that "wasn't the safe choice."
"In the NBA, they're almost leery of guys who hang around (college) four years," Stackhouse said. "They talk about how they want guys to stay in school, but as far as the next level, they poke holes in you, figuring there must be something wrong with you because if you were better than that, you'd already be gone by now.
"I think Reggie kind of realized that and he feels like he's ready to compete and put in the work to ... give him a chance to be a great NBA player."
Bullock is one of seven prospects - including potential lottery picks Anthony Bennett of UNLV, Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams and Indiana's Cody Zeller - featured on DraftDreams, which documents their journey with a website, Twitter feed and iTunes app.
He's hoping the story will end with him following Stackhouse once more, this time as a first-round pick. If it doesn't, he'll fight for a roster spot with a team that takes him in the second round. Or he'll play overseas.
His perspective: it's a "blessing" to even be in this position.
"I think it's an honor for anybody that goes at 58, 59 or 60 - just to be in that top 60 for the best basketball players entering the NBA," Bullock said. "Just hearing a team call your name, it's an honor just to know the work you put in over the years has paid off and you have another opportunity to go show somebody what you're really capable of doing."