Tuesday, June 24, 2003

West waits, wonders

AP Player of the Year has watched his spot in draft fall, but he's not worried

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

David West sits on a Chicago hotel room bed, totally aware that at the same time, he is sitting on the brink of an NBA record before he has even signed a professional contract.

West almost certainly will become the lowest drafted Associated Press College Player of the Year in the 33-year history of the award at Thursday's NBA draft in New York City. High school stars, European players, underclassmen and questions about West's ability to play power forward have sent his draft stock plummeting after he was expected to be a mid-first-round pick in the weeks following the NCAA Tournament.

Low expectations are nothing new for West, who experienced a similar setback when he barely registered on the national recruiting scene coming out of high school. He found a willing program at Xavier and went on to have his jersey retired.

"I just have to roll with it," West says. "I'm looking at it like I'm going to be somewhere (after Thursday) with some NBA team."

That was two weeks ago in Chicago, just hours after West measured 6-feet-9 3/4 tall in shoes, putting an end to the doubts about his size. It did not, however, silence any of the detractors who say West is a "tweener" - in between a small forward and a power forward - who may get lost in an NBA system.

West says NBA general managers have told him he needs to get stronger and show that he can score over taller players. Now, there are more questions after West suffered a pulled quadriceps muscle and sprained an ankle while working out for teams, causing him to miss several workouts. But he is still a near-lock for the first round, albeit late in the round, said his agent, Jeff Austin.

"These teams have all seen him play for four years," Austin said. "They really just want to get a chance to meet him. Given the injuries, he could be drafted by a team that hasn't seen him work out."

So far Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis and Boston have seen West on the court, while he has visited with Phoenix, Golden State and Milwaukee. He will continue to work out with teams today and tomorrow.

West knows he's going to be drafted, and is outspoken on his desire to play for a winning team rather than a losing one.

"Maybe not immediately," West says, "but within two or three years, you want the team to be winning. I don't deal well with losing."

West isn't in a hurry to change his lifestyle, either. Although he did buy a new Lexus SUV, West worked out a deal with Xavier's housing officials that allows him to live in his dorm room until the draft ends.

"I wasn't in a rush to get out," West says. "I like Cincinnati. Plus, my girl(friend) is there."

West is following in the Xavier footsteps of former Musketeer NBA big men Tyrone Hill, Aaron Williams, Derek Strong and Brian Grant, but probably has more in common with former crosstown rival, University of Cincinnati star and New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin.

Both played four years of college and won AP Player of the Year honors, the only players in Cincinnati to ever win the award -- which started in 1961, after Oscar Robertson's UC career was over. New Jersey drafted Martin No. 1 overall in the 2000 draft, and he has gone on to build an All-Star career.

"I don't think that's fair to anybody to be compared to another player," said Bucks general manager Ernie Grunfeld. "Especially when their games are not that similar. Martin is more of a back-to-the-basket type player, where West faces up and can shoot it."

West isn't as concerned about how he measures up against Martin as he is about how he'll perform on his own.

"At this level, it's more on you to be self-motivated," West says. "Now I shift from the three to the four exclusively. That's kind of the way I am anyway. This way, I know I'll be on the floor playing."

With which team is the unanswered question for West. He'll find out Thursday, but it will take some patience to wait for NBA commissioner David Stern to call his name.

"It's cool," West says. "I don't feel any pressure. I'll just be sitting back and waiting."

Where will he go?

What they're saying about David West's draft potential:

www.ESPN.com - 26th to Minnesota

www.CBS.Sportsline.com - 18th to New Orleans/26th to Minnesota

www.TheSportingNews.com - 24th to the Los Angeles Lakers

www.NBAdraft.net - 23rd to Portland

All-time Xavier first- and second-round draft picks

James Posey (Denver), first round, 1999

Torraye Braggs (Utah), second round, 1998

Brian Grant (Sacramento), first round, 1994

Tyrone Hill (Golden State), first round, 1990

Derek Strong (Philadelphia), second round, 1990

Victor Fleming (Portland), second round, 1984

Bob Quick (Baltimore), second round, 1968

The best aren't always first

Xavier's David West could become the lowest drafted AP Player of the Year since the award's inception in 1961. Here's a look at AP Players of the Year who lasted past the fifth pick.

Year Player Pick Team College
1986 Walter Berry 14 Portland St. John's
1978 Butch Lee 10 Atlanta Marquette
1990 Lionel Simmons 7 Sacramento La Salle
2001 Shane Battier 6 Memphis Duke
1993 Calbert Cheaney 6 Washington Indiana
1988 Hersey Hawkins 6 L.A. Clippers Bradley
1978 Larry Bird 6 Boston Indiana State
1962 Jerry Lucas 6 Cincinnati Ohio State

E-mail ddow@enquirer.com

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