Their college careers are over, and they’re now separated by about 450 miles.
And their interest in tonight’s NBA draft is a little different.
But former Mercer men’s basketball standouts James Florence and Danny Emerson are still spending much of their days on the court or in the weight room in preparation for the next step.
Florence will probably pay a little more attention to the two-round draft, to be televised on ESPN, since his future is more uncertain.
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Florence worked out last week with the Miami Heat and has spent mornings and afternoons in Atlanta playing, shooting, lifting, running, swimming and doing drills.
He knows that Emerson, his teammate for two years, already is on a schedule.
First, of course, is a wedding in three weeks in North Carolina. Emerson and former Mercer volleyball player Chelsea Gebben are in her hometown of Orlando, Fla., before they’ll wed in a much cooler climate.
After a honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, they’ll cram their belongings together for a much longer road trip — to Belgium.
Emerson signed earlier this month with Optima Gent of the Belgian pro A league, his first offer.
“I had to talk it over with Chelsea for awhile and take my time thinking about it,” Emerson said. “We decided that we’d accept it. There are a lot of things about Belgium that my agent liked.”
It was also the league that Emerson’s older brother Scott had played in.
“He said it was his favorite place,” Emerson said of his brother’s experience. “And it’s their top league, so it’s going to open up a lot of possibilities.”
Emerson, the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s state college player of the year for 2009-10, toyed with football for a few weeks, considering the route taken by former Mercer forward Wesley Duke. Duke, a teammate of Scott and Will Emerson, played a few seasons with Denver in the NFL before suffering a knee injury.
Duke hadn’t played football since his senior year of high school. Emerson, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder, went through some workouts with Roger Jackson, a former pro football player from Macon who worked with Duke, but jumped back to basketball.
“I was just messing around,” Emerson said. “I didn’t get really into it all that much.”
And now he’s in the best shape of his life.
“I’ve just been doing a lot of lifting, everything I didn’t get to do last summer before last season started because I was recovering from shoulder surgery and hernia surgery,” he said. “I finally started getting back to what I used to feel like and what I lost when I was (laid) up for five months straight.
“I feel a lot better, a lot stronger, a lot more explosive. Last season, it was a good season, but I wasn’t in good shape until December, and I wasn’t really strong at any point. I was just trying to survive.”
Focusing on basketball and conditioning has the spirits of Florence, Mercer’s all-time leading scorer, high, as well.
“I’ve been working out up here the whole time,” Florence said from his Marietta home. “I feel in great shape.”
The odds of Florence getting a call tonight from Miami aren’t great, but he was pleased with what he showed the Heat.
“We did some one on one and two on two, drills, conditioning,” Florence said. “They said of all the people they had working out this summer, I was in the top three in every (category).”
Florence said his numbers in bench reps and vertical jump and sprints compared very favorably to bigger names.
“And I shot the ball well, had some good drives,” he said. “I played pretty good. I was pretty happy with it.”
Florence will participate today through Sunday at the Pro One Sports Exposure Camp in Suwanee. Florence is represented by Pro One, and the camp is another chance for NBA scouts to get a look at prospects who may be under the radar.
Former Westside standout Gerald Fitch, who played at Kentucky and has played in Europe, is also scheduled to participate, as is former Georgia guard Rashad Wright, among others.
Florence’s focus after tonight, if no call comes, is to get in an NBA summer league. This summer, 22 NBA teams will participate in the summer league with play starting July 9. Miami and Atlanta are both scheduled to participate. His next option may lead to a phone call to his former teammate in the paint who by then will be in Belgium.
“We’re shooting for a summer league team,” Florence said, “And hope for the best there, maybe get a shot as a free agent.
“If I need a year over in Europe, I’m definitely not opposed to that. You’ll still be making good money, and you get to experience a whole new culture and things like that. I think that’ll be there. It’s just a matter of what country and what league.”
Uncertainty aside, Florence remains optimistic.
“The NBA’s not out of the picture yet, but you’ve got to be honest with yourself at some point,” he said. “If I get on a summer-league team, that’ll open a lot of other doors.”