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Notes from the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp

by David Seigerman

Posted: Thu June 18, 1998

THE TOP TWO SCORERS at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp June 2-6 in Chicago were Baylor's Brian Skinner and St. John's Felipe Lopez, both of whom averaged 14.6 points during the three-game camp and solidified their chances of being taken in the first round of the June 24 draft. Lopez, a 6'5" guard whose perimeter shooting skills are his biggest question mark, hit 18 of his 21 shots, though most of those finished breaks. Skinner, a 6'9" forward who went 17-for-29 from the floor, also averaged 5.0 rebounds per game.

PRINCETON'S MITCH HENDERSON and Steve Goodrich became what is believed to be the first pair of Ivy League teammates ever to participate in the Pre-Draft Camp. They are both trying to become the first Ivy players drafted into the NBA since Penn's Jerome Allen was taken 49th overall by the Timberwolves three years ago. Both players averaged 5.3 points per game, though Goodrich, a 6'9" power forward, has the only legitimate hope of being drafted, albeit it in the second round. Ironically, Goodrich played on a team with Jelani McCoy and J.R. Henderson of UCLA, the team whose national title defense was halted by Princeton in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament. Incidentally, McCoy (6.0 points per game), Henderson (10.6) and another former Bruin, Toby Bailey (7.7) did little to help themselves at the camp, according to NBA director of scouting Marty Blake.

ANOTHER CAMP FIRST was the appearance of a high school player: Korleone Young, a 6'6" foward from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. Young averaged a respectable 6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, but many NBA scouts, coaches and general managers were skeptical of his chances of being drafted in the first round. Young's teammates were quick to embrace him and offer their support, cheering whenever he performed well on the floor. But one player said that Young was uncomfortable asserting himself, often deferring to his older teammates. Young is one of three high school All-Americas who are expected to be drafted this year; neither Rashard Lewis nor Al Harrington participated in the camp.

A NOTABLE FIGURE watching the second day of games was Washington Wizards forward (and Chicago native) Juwan Howard, who was on hand to see his former Fab Five teammate from Michigan, Jimmy King. After spending the past season with Quad Cities in the CBA, where he averaged 16.4 points per game, King was hoping to earn a second look from the NBA. He was one of three camp participants who played last year in the CBA: Lou Roe and Nate Huffman were the others.

ONE PLAYER WHOSE STOCK is on the rise: Gonzaga's 6'8" forward, Bakari Hendrix, the West Coast Conference's Player of the Year. Hendrix was invited to April's Desert Classic in Tempe, Ariz., amidst much skepticism, but wound up the tournament's top scorer and MVP. He opened the June camp with a 20-point performance and may have moved himself into the late first round. Perhaps no other player has improved his chances more since the end of the season than Hendrix, who averaged 11.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in Chicago.

THE LEADING SCORER IN THE COUNTRY the past two seasons was Long Island University's Charles Jones, but he wasn't even the best Blackbird playing in Chicago. Jones averaged 5.6 points per game and may have shot himself out of the draft, hitting only six of his 17 field-goal attempts. His LIU teammate, swingmanMike Campbell, hit 50 percent of his shots during the camp and averaged 13.6 points. During the season, the 6'5" Campbell averaged 19.7 points while Jones averaged 29.0.

SOME NOTEWORTHY INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES: Rhode Island playmaker Tyson Wheeler dished out 11 assists in a June 4 game; Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew put up 16 points and six assists in his first game (Drew strained a hamstring in the second game and missed the third entirely); and Eastern Michigan guard Derrick Dial ended the camp with a 16-point, 10-assist gem, in which he shot 7-for-9 from the field, scored from all over the floor, and showed tremendous explosiveness.

ONE OF THE CAMP-SPECIFIC RULES is that a player cannot foul out. That gave George Washington's 7-foot center, Alexander Koul, the chance to pick up eight fouls in a June 4 game. Koul was banging against 6'11" Daniel Santiago, who transfered last season from New Mexico to Division II St. Vincent (Pa.), and Georgetown's 6'9"Jahidi White, who showed up somewhat slimmed down after the regular season. (Koul, by the way, finished the camp with 16 points and 21 fouls in three games.) In that same game, Oklahoma guard Corey Brewer picked up seven fouls; Brewer frequently resorted to clutching and holding speedy point guard Sean Colson from UNC Charlotte.

THE DAY AFTER THE COMPETITION ENDED, the likely lottery picks—none of whom participated in the camp—were brought in to meet the media. Perhaps the most unusual revelation came from Pacific's 7-foot center, Michael Olowokandi,who has become the talk of the draft. Born in Nigeria and raised in London, Olowokandi grew up competing in soccer and track and field. A highly regarded athlete, Olowokandi seemed apologetic when a reporter asked whether the Kandi Man had recently been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. Olowokandi started to offer an excuse before noting that he'd run the 40 in 4.45 before. That's wide-receiver speed in the best big man on the block.

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