A long shot
Marquette's James arrives at camp with lots to prove
Posted: Wednesday May 30, 2007 11:57AM; Updated: Wednesday May 30, 2007 12:25PM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Dominic James was sleeping in at his grandmother's home in Richmond, Ind. on Memorial Day, playing the part of college kid on summer break, when the call came. It was an NBA representative letting the Marquette sophomore point guard know, on the eve of the league's predraft camp, that his status had changed from "alternate" to "invitee." After being left off of the league's original list of 58, James' fate was positively altered by circumstances beyond his control -- mainly Georgia Tech point guard Javaris Crittenton signing with an agent last Friday and pulling out of the camp, and Kansas shooting guard Brandon Rush tearing an ACL last Wednesday, then announcing two days later he was staying in school.
Less than 36 hours after receiving the invite, James, still feeling full from his grandma's home cooking -- "I've gotta get these extra pounds off," he said, kiddingly patting his stomach -- was in a white No. 29 jersey at the Milkhouse Gym at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, going head-to-head with former Oregon star Aaron Brooks in an evening scrimmage. Had James been excluded from this week's camp, the chances of him staying in the draft were slim. Now that he's here, we must entertain the notion James' career as a Golden Eagle might be over.
James insists that, after a season in which he averaged 14.9 points and 4.9 assists but shot an abysmal 27.2 percent from three-point range, he is "serious about the [draft] process" and isn't merely just putting his name in. The chatter amongst NBA folks is that James wants to stay in the draft; and according to him, it may not require a first-round guarantee to make it happen. James said he would strongly consider something akin to what former Texas guard Daniel Gibson received last season, which was an assurance from Cleveland that he would not slip past its pick in the second round, and then a guaranteed two-year deal once he was selected in that spot. "I'm just looking for a guarantee, that's all," said James.
What remains to be seen is whether James can actually secure such a promise. His performance over the next three days at the predraft camp will be critical; as Marquette coach Tom Crean told James this week, he's one of the players here who has the biggest opportunity to improve his draft status. Part of that is because it's a weak point guard draft, and only one of the other top-flight floor generals, Virginia's Sean Singletary, is suiting up at the Milkhouse. (Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr., Texas A&M's Acie Law IV and Crittenton will all be in town for physicals only.) The other reason James has potential to improve is because his stock is significantly lower than it was after his freshman season at Marquette in 2005-06. At that time he was projected as a top-20 pick, but as one Eastern Conference scout told SI.com on Tuesday, "right now, [James] has no shot at the first round."
That, essentially, is what James is facing: A skeptical crowd of NBA evaluators whose scouting reports tab him as a highly athletic, albeit undersized (at 5-foot-11), point guard with a suspect shot. James is well aware of the latter criticism; the fact that he remained on the floor at the Milkhouse on Tuesday night, hoisting scores of NBA-range threes after the scrimmages had concluded, was not a coincidence.
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