Costner upbeat about NBA draft

Staff WriterJune 3, 2009 

Brandon Costner knows people think he is not NBA material.

The leading scorer for N.C. State last season knows he is not popular among the mock draft set. More importantly, the versatile forward figured out he still had something to prove to the professional teams with real drafting powers when he wasn't among the 52 prospects invited to this past weekend's NBA Combine in Chicago.

Yet the laid-back Costner said he's not worried.

"I'm used to people making judgments about me that aren't always true," Costner said. "That doesn't bother me."

Costner graduated from N.C. State in May and signed with an agent, closing the door on his college career with one remaining season of eligibility. After averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Wolfpack in 2008-09, Costner said it was time to move on after three productive, but inconsistent, seasons under coach Sidney Lowe.

Former State coach Herb Sendek recruited Costner in 2005. The McDonald's All-American redshirted the 2005-06 season -- Sendek's last in Raleigh -- after suffering a stress fracture in his left leg.

Lowe said in April he and Costner parted on good terms, and Costner said he doesn't have any animosity for Lowe.

"In the end, I felt like everyone was ready to part ways and move on from the Sendek era," Costner said.

"I enjoyed my time," he said of playing for Lowe. "I wish him nothing but the best."

Costner spent the past month in Arizona, training in the Athletes' Performance program near Phoenix and working on his basketball skills at the 2J Basketball Academy run by former Phoenix Suns coach Frank Johnson.

Costner said his goal remains to play in the NBA. His father, Tony, played pro basketball for seven seasons in Greece and had shorter stints in Italy and France, but Costner said he didn't leave N.C. State with the intention of going to Europe.

He said he has worked out for two NBA teams (Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns) and has five more scheduled before the draft on June 25.

"He's a talented kid," said Johnson, who played 10 seasons in the NBA and coached for parts of three. "I love his skill set. I've been trying to get him to turn up his intensity and believe in himself."

Costner frustrated some Wolfpack fans with his inconsistency. As a redshirt freshman, he led the team in scoring (16.8 points per game) and dominated the 2007 ACC Tournament, scoring 90 points in four games.

Costner could have left for the NBA after that breakout performance, but he said he didn't because he thought the 2007-'08 season would be "special."

"Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way," Costner said.

State suffered a losing season that follow-up year, as Costner's numbers plummeted with the arrival of freshman big man J.J. Hickson and the departure of point guard Engin Atsur.

Now Costner is trying to recapture the form that made him one of the ACC's best players. He said he's physically in better shape than he was when the Wolfpack's season ended this spring.

He hopes to get picked in the second round of the June 25 NBA draft.

"So far, the feedback has been positive," Costner said. "I think my chances are good."

However, Johnson said Costner might have to go the free-agency route or to Europe. Eventually, though, Costner's combination of skill and size will get him noticed by the NBA, Johnson added.

"He'll get a shot somewhere," Johnson said. "With the right team and the right coach, he can get there."

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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