RENO, Nev. -- Nevada sophomore center JaVale McGee is leaving school early to go pro and his mom already believes he's more skilled than most of the players in the NBA.
Of course, McGee's mother knows a little more about basketball than the average parent. Former U.S. Olympian and WNBA star Pam McGee already has a nickname for her high-flying, shot-blocking son: The Big Secret.
"If you talk to any pro scouts, they will tell you JaVale is probably the most skilled 7-footer in the country, one of the most skilled 7-footers in the world," Pam McGee told reporters at a news conference Monday after her rather shy son briefly and quietly thanked Nevada's coaches and fans for helping to make his dream come true.
"We are at the point now to ask, not is he a pro, but what kind of pro, what type of a pro will he become?" she said, adding that NBA scouts have told her his skill set is "70 percent better than most NBA guys who have a job today."
The 7-foot-1 JaVale McGee became known this year for his thundering dunks, behind-the-back passes in traffic and Western Athletic Conference-leading 2.8 blocked shots per game. He averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range.
Many had expected him to return to Nevada for his junior season then enter the 2009 draft. But when talk started that he was a lock to be picked in the first round and possibly among the first 14 lottery picks, McGee, his mother and Nevada coach Mark Fox all agreed the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"JaVale is not somebody who is borderline draftable. I think he has proven his ability," Fox said on Monday.
"One of the things JaVale has done here is he has still grown physically. He is still maturing physically," Fox said about the 240-pound 20-year-old. "The common thing I got from NBA people is that Mother Nature is going to take its course and he is going to fill out physically."
Pam McGee, now a high school coach and teacher in Sacramento, led Southern California to two NCAA titles and won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. She reminded reporters on Monday she went professional the same year Michael Jordan did.
"I have insights that other people don't have," she said. "I have long-term friends who are now general managers and owners."
"When I talk to them, they basically give me an honest opinion that my son is a stock option. They understand he is going to be a pro and there is no limit on what he can do," she said.
"The deal that really puts him on the table is he's a great kid. You don't have to worry about my son off the court. You won't see him on any news lines. And if you do, call me."
"So when they start talking to me and start saying lottery, early lottery, late lottery ... I felt we had to do what is best for my son,"
LaVale McGee has hired Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker at Maximum Sports Management as his agents.
"You might as well know, they are calling him the 'Big Secret,'" Pam McGee said. "So the secret is out. He's the Big Secret."