By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
Hank Baskett has found something to keep his mind off this weekend’s NFL draft — softball.
“I’m just keeping myself busy,” said Baskett, an all-conference wide receiver at New Mexico whose combination of size and athleticism make him a likely NFL pick. “Baseball was my first love, and (Clovis softball coach) Brandi Thomas let me come out to practice this week.”
Baskett was a three-sport standout at Clovis High, graduating in 2001.
Thomas said she and her players have enjoyed having him around this week.
“They loved it,” Thomas said. “They’ve all had him sign autographs. I’m proud of him, but to me he’s still little Hankie.”
The NFL draft starts Saturday with rounds one through three, and ends Sunday with rounds four through seven.
Baskett said he’s trying to stay stress free in the days leading up to the draft.
“This week is more exciting for everyone else than it is for me,” said Baskett, who caught 67 passes for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns this season. “Saturday and Sunday will be (exciting) for me.”
Where the sturdy and sure-handed 6-foot-3, 218-pound Baskett will be drafted is anyone’s guess.
“Hank is in a cloudy area,” said Jim Ivler, Baskett’s agent. “Realistically he’s a third- to fifth-round pick. Could some team fall in love with him and take him in the second round? Sure, but I don’t see that happening. Could he fall to the sixth? Absolutely, but I don’t think that will happen either.”
Baskett said he is not making any predictions about what round he is going to be taken.
“It’s the biggest poker game,” Baskett said. “I’ve just tried to put myself in a position to be drafted, and I think I’ve done that.”
If Baskett is drafted, he’ll be the first player from Clovis to do so.
Two other Lobos are expected to be taken in this year’s draft. Ryan Cook could be among the first centers off the board, somewhere in the middle rounds. DonTrell Moore is projected to be taken somewhere in the thick of a deep running back class.
In the NFL draft, the difference between being taken early or late could be millions of dollars in the player’s first pro contract.
“All of us want to be taken as high as we can,” Baskett said. “But I’m not worried about it. If you’re going to play in the NFL, you’re going to make some money.”
Ivler said he’s received several calls from teams interested in drafting Baskett. The Eagles flew Baskett to Philadelphia for an individual workout.
“A team can only invite 20 players for workouts,” Baskett said. “So it’s nice knowing they’re looking at you.”
Baskett said he toured the team facilities and met with Eagles players and staff, including going to lunch with Philadelphia’s Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Ivler said Baskett makes a good impression on everyone he meets.
“He’s about as special of a person as I’ve encountered,” Ivler said. “I wish all my clients were like him. It’d make my job a lot easier.”
Ivler said Baskett’s personality may be as key to getting drafted as his physical attributes.
“He’s as good of a character guy there is,” Ivler said. “And he’s smart, he’ll pick up any offense. This kid has 12-year NFL career written all over him.”
The biggest knock on Baskett is his speed. He’s one of the taller receivers in this year’s class, and his athletic ability is not in question. He was the Mountain West Conference high-jump champion in 2004, but scouts wonder if he will be fast enough to get separation from NFL defensive backs.
At the NFL combine in February in Indianapolis, Baskett said he wanted to put those concerns to rest.
“I told (scouts) that I would run in the 4.4s,” Baskett said. “My first time, I ran a 4.50, then the next time I was 4.49.”
Ivler said Baskett’s performance in the combine should silence his critics.
“How could someone take an issue with a 4.49?” he said.
Whether scouts will be impressed by that time or not, by Monday Baskett will likely be looking for a place to live in a new city, and plenty of Clovis residents will have a new favorite team.
“The thing I’m worried about is where I’m going to be next year, how my life is going to change,” he said.