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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 9, 2002

Sensley's selection in the NBA draft may be long shot

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

All Julian Sensley wants is a chance to play basketball.

One year after the NCAA denied him that opportunity, Sensley wants to take his chances on the highest level — the NBA.

Sensley, a former Kalaheo High standout, has applied for early entry into the June 26 NBA Draft.

"When you dream of playing big-time basketball, and that gets taken from you, it's real frustrating," said Sensley, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward. "I just have to bounce back because it's still my dream."

Last season was Sensley's nightmare. He was affiliated with four different colleges, yet never played basketball at any of them.

"It was like everything went upside down," said his mother, Susanne Karsten, who resides in Kailua. "He had a plan and it never worked out. It was very hard for all of us."

Sensley signed a letter of intent to play at California, but never qualified academically. In a span of six months, he enrolled at Diablo Valley College (Calif.), then transferred to Iona College, and then to Fresno State.

He said each move was made in an attempt to play basketball.

"Basically, I just wanted to play," Sensley said. "It didn't have anything to do with people telling me go here or go there; I was captain of my own ship. I went to those schools thinking I would get a chance to play right away."

After each transfer, his appeals to the NCAA to gain immediate eligibility were denied.

"I would work out on my own, but it wasn't the same as playing games," he said. "I missed it."

As his mother put it: "A lot of people gave him advice, and looking back, not all of that advice was good."

Despite his one year in basketball purgatory, Sensley said he "felt ready" to test the NBA Draft.

Last week, he participated in the NBA Pre-Draft Camp along with 64 other top prospects. Sensley, who is 19, was one of the youngest players invited.

"I'm hoping to get drafted, but I also want to use it as a learning experience," he said. "I want to see where I stand."

This year's NBA Draft consists of just two rounds. Sensley is hoping to become the first Hawai'i-raised player drafted since Richard Haenisch in 1984 (seventh round).

Early reviews are not in Sensley's favor.

Despite a decent showing at the Pre-Draft Camp — he averaged around 13 points and six rebounds in three scrimmages — Sensley's name is barely mentioned in mock drafts across the Internet.

"Judging from the people I talked to, it will be a surprise if he gets picked at all," said ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz. "He's still raw, and not playing at all this year didn't help him."

Even if he is not drafted, Sensley is prepared. He has not hired an agent, so his college eligibility will not be jeopardized.

If he is not selected, Sensley said he will return to Fresno State, although he would probably not be eligible to play for the Bulldogs until January 2003.

"If the NBA thinks I'm not ready, then I'll go back to school and try it again later," he said.

Without an agent, Sensley also has had trouble garnering attention from NBA teams. He has not been invited to any private workouts yet.

"I haven't really heard anything one way or the other about my chances," he said. "But I feel like I more than held my own (at the Pre-Draft Camp) so maybe I turned a few heads there."

Sensley was a first-team all-state selection as a sophomore and junior at Kalaheo. After his junior year, he transferred to St. Thomas More, a prep school in Connecticut. After two years there, he was considered one of the top recruits in the country.