Nate Tomlinson doesn't need to shake David Stern's hand tonight at the NBA draft to realize his dream.
After four years as Colorado's starting point guard, Tomlinson is returning to his native Australia to play professionally for the Melbourne Tigers.
"It's going to be sad leaving Boulder," Tomlinson said. "It's become like a second home for me."
Tomlinson was born in Melbourne and followed the National Basketball League growing up. His father Billy, who is now coaching in China, used to coach in the NBL, which is very popular in Australia.
"Playing at CU helped me a lot," Tomlinson said. "I've played with and against a lot of good athletes going back to my freshman year. Then also adjusting to a new coach and a new system pretty much got me prepared for anything."
Tomlinson was recruited by Jeff Bzdelik to run a Princeton-style offense and survived some serious rebuilding pains in the Big 12. Over the last two seasons, he enjoyed back-to-back 24-win campaigns, an NIT semifinals run, and the NCAA Tournament experience as an upper classman under Tad Boyle.
"Nate was top of our list of young graduating talent, and we are delighted he chose the Tigers, as there was interest from a number of other clubs," Melbourne head coach Chris Anstey said in a release after the team signed Tomlinson to a multi-year deal. "We see him as a long-term prospect and want to give him every opportunity to be a Tiger for as long as possible."
Two other recent CU graduates, Carlon Brown and Austin Dufault, are also planning to play professionally.
Brown, the most outstanding player of the Pac-12 Tournament, could be a second-round pick tonight. If the explosive 6-5 guard is not drafted, there is still a good chance he will be invited to participate in the NBA Summer League.
"I haven't been told anything directly by scouts on what they need to see me do," Brown said after competing in April's Portsmouth Invitational, an NBA pre-draft showcase for seniors. "I would assume they want me to shoot from NBA (3-point) range and just be more consistent in everything I do, work on turnovers. If I do that, I think I will have a shot."
Dufault is open to playing in Europe or China, if necessary. Tomlinson has even tried to talk his friend into considering relocating to Australia.
Last week the Denver Nuggets brought Dufault, a 6-9 forward and four-year CU starter, in for a workout at the Pepsi Center.
"They seem to think that he has a very bright future in pro basketball," said Ben Pensack, Dufault's agent. "If not in the NBA, then certainly in Europe."
The other member of CU's senior class, Trey Eckloff, is planning to enroll in law school next year.
Boyle's rising program -- which was in the spotlight a year ago when Alec Burks was selected by the Utah Jazz with the No. 12 pick -- could produce another first-round pick next summer if Andre Roberson leaves school following his junior season.
The Pac-12's leading rebounder is working out in Boulder with a talented cast that includes six promising freshmen.
"I feel like being back one more year is going to help out a lot," Roberson told Buffzone.com recently. "Some guys just look at the NBA and just being in there. I want to be in there and be good and play right away."