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Combing the Pre-Draft Camp for future Frost Heaves

Posted: Friday June 16, 2006 10:22AM; Updated: Friday June 16, 2006 4:06PM
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For many players, such as Alabama's Evan Brock, the NBA isn't the only potential employer to impress at the Pre-Draft Camp.
For many players, such as Alabama's Evan Brock, the NBA isn't the only potential employer to impress at the Pre-Draft Camp.
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I've been to scores of all-star showcases, AAU tournaments and summer-league runs over 26 years of covering the game. I've snickered at college recruiters who wear T-shirts with school names writ comically large across the front, and contrive to "bump" prospects by intercepting them between the locker room and the parking lot.

At all of these I've watched, bemused, detached and not particularly invested.

Not anymore.

If you're suddenly in charge of a pro basketball team with a dozen open roster spots, you start thinking in totally different terms.

Over three days in Orlando, where the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp and various side workouts and exposure camps took place, I suddenly wore a GM's hat and (literally) a loud blue T-shirt emblazoned with VERMONT FROST HEAVES. The notes I took were as much for the future of the team as for this Web dispatch. The questions I'd pose to our coach, Will Voigt, were these: "Do we want that guy?" And, almost as important, "Do we have a chance with him?"

Sitting in the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, I see a Pre-Draft Camper I know our coach likes. He's listed at 6-foot-8. Coach V points out that, there on the floor, our quarry is standing next to someone who's listed at 6-7, and the two appear to be the same height.

I express disappointment, but Coach V quickly corrects me.

"We want him to be 6-7," he says. "If he's only 6-7, he's more likely to fall to us."

As a team in the American Basketball Association, we have certain advantages. There is no ABA draft, which means we can go after anyone we want -- it's all on us to sign him. Nor are any players "assigned" to us at mid-season with a tag attached that reads, "Play me." (By contrast, in the NBA's minor league, the NBDL, the league signs a pool of players, then offers them up to D-League teams in a draft. Similarly, if an NBA team farms someone out to a D-League affiliate, the D-League team is expected to play the guy.)

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