Saturday, June 12, 1999

Brown's hard work may earn chance at NBA

Right team key for ex-Muskie

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CHICAGO — All Lenny Brown has ever wanted was a chance. In prep school. At Xavier. Now the NBA.

        The consensus among team officials at the NBA pre-draft camp this week at the Moody Bible Institute is that the former Musketeer will get his opportunity to prove he belongs in the NBA.

        At best, Brown could be selected late in the second round of the two-round NBA draft on June 30. If he is not picked, however, Brown is certain to be invited to free-agent camps.

        “It's going to be a tough road, because there are so many players at the position he's trying to break in at,” said Scott Layden, vice president of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz. “But if anybody can do it, I think he can, because he has a little edge to him, a little toughness that separates him from the masses.”

        “I think he's a draftable player,” said Jerry Reynolds, director of player personnel for the Sacramento Kings. “I see him more as a combo guard. He's never going to be a true point probably. But there's a place for those guys. Mentally and physically, he's tough enough, and that's a big step.”

        Brown, 24, was the starting shooting guard at Xavier for four years and finished as the No.3 scorer and No.1 three-point shooter in school history.

        At 6-foot-11/2, he is considered too short to be a shooting guard in the NBA, so he's being asked to learn the point guard position — running his team's offense, making sure players are in the right places, distributing the ball, defending quicker players.

        He has been on display three times this postseason for NBA officials. In addition to this week, Brown participated in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational, where he was named to the all-tournament team, and the Nike Desert Classic in Phoenix.

        An invitation to Chicago provided another opportunity to show his progress in becoming a point guard. Also, several NBA coaches have been in Chicago; they did not attend the previous camps.

        Utah and Sacramento already have interviewed Brown, said his agent, Anil Vaswani.

        “I think he's done a good job,” said Billy Knight, senior vice president of basketball for the Indiana Pacers. “He's physically strong. ... He's got the right mindset.

        “If he's on the right sort of team, Lenny Brown is draftable because he can shoot the ball. There are not a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. If you've got a team that players draw a double-team on, I can see him being on that team, because he'll make you pay for leaving him. If you've got a type of team that wants a playmaker to create offense, he's not that kind of player.”

        Brown played solidly in three games in Chicago. In two games in Chicago, Brown averaged seven points on combined 5-for-11 shooting and totaled eight assists and three steals. His third game Friday night was canceled when a thunderstorm knocked out half the lights in the gym.

        “One thing that's been a constant with him is he's defended well and he's played with a passion at that end of the court, which sticks out,” Layden said. “Unfortunately, it's not important to all players; it looks like it's important to him.”

        Brown prepared for Chicago by lifting weights, running and going through drills daily with Xavier assistant coaches.

        “This is going to be my meal ticket,” he said. “If I want to put food on the table, this is it. Basketball first right now. That's how I'm attacking it every day.

        “Hopefully a couple teams will have me in for a workout. That's all I wish for, a chance. If I get the opportunity and they tell me I'm not good enough, that's fine.”

        Brown came here feeling like an underdog, needing to prove himself. “It's always been like that all my life,” he said. “I don't have a problem with that, because I have confidence in my abilities and my work ethic.”

        Brown played his games in Chicago for Denver assistant John Lucas and Phoenix assistant Frank Johnson, and both came away with a favorable impression.

        “I think Lenny has a great chance to make it in our league,” Lucas said. “I was a little worried about his height at first, but he makes up for it because he's like a little bowling ball.”

        Said Johnson: “He's done a good job in this environment. If he doesn't get drafted by the right team, it's best he doesn't get drafted, so he can choose which team he wants to play for. He will definitely get to a camp and hopefully when he gets there, he'll get a chance.”

        That's all he wants.


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