Wednesday, June 09, 1999

College standouts chase NBA dream at draft camp

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Kevin McHale will be in the stands. They will attempt to determine whether any of the basketball players on the gym floor at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute can become as good as they were.

        The NBA draft is not for another three weeks, at the MCI Center in Washington, but the next three days at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp will decide much about which players are chosen June 30.

        The event is the most important of the three tryout camps conducted for the benefit of NBA teams each spring. It is the only one that includes underclassmen who've declared for the draft. It is the only one that can be attended by coaches as well as scouts and general managers.

        And it's the last. Whatever impression a player makes at this camp is likely to stick with guys like West who'll make the draft picks for their teams.

        UC guard Melvin Levett will be playing for the possibility that a great week at Chicago could squeeze him into the first round. Xavier's Lenny Brown did not play so well at the Nike Desert Classic in Phoenix and would like to override that performance and prove himself as a potential NBA point guard.

        Kentucky center Jamaal Magloire wants to establish himself as a first-round pick and avoid a return to UK for his senior season. He filed for entry to the draft following his junior year, in which he played primarily as a reserve.

        Generally, players expected to be chosen in the “lottery” portion of the first round, such as Miami's Wally Szczerbiak, reserve their energies for private workouts with individual teams.

        Some who established themselves as first-round picks with strong efforts in Phoenix will not compete this week. Xavier forward James Posey falls into this category.

        Anyone else who wants to be drafted better show, as Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard learned last season. He was the Final Four's most outstanding player, but when the date for his honeymoon conflicted with the Chicago camp, he was stiffed in the draft and had to make the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent.

        “I really don't know what to expect,” Levett said. He spoke with UC coach Bob Huggins before leaving for Chicago to get an idea. “He told me there'd be a lot of different drills, a lot of one-on-one things, and hopefully I'll do well with what they show us.”

        The event began Tuesday evening with the players grouped into teams for practice sessions designed to make games today, Thursday and Friday proceed more smoothly and in more of an NBA fashion.

        Players were instructed on the fine art of the pick-and-roll, which is the most commonly used play in the pro game.

        Starting today, the players will go through practice drills early in the morning, then play one game a day through Friday. The physical demands are not extreme. The pressure is.

        UK coach Tubby Smith said he believes it will be best for Magloire to return to school and play another year. That's possible because Magloire has not signed with an agent and paid his own way to Chicago for the camp. Whether he is back with the Wildcats will be determined by how well Magloire plays — or how well he perceives he played — in Chicago.

        Levett has worked out for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks and following this camp will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.

        “I'm getting my chance, getting a shot, and that's really all I can ask for,” Levett said. “Hopefully, I can put everything together in these next couple days and everything will be all right.”


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