2001 NBA Draft

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Who's on first?

High school trip contemplates being No. 1

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Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2001 9:24 PM
Updated: Thursday June 28, 2001 8:15 AM
  Already dubbed "Baby Shaq," Eddy Curry is expected to be a lottery pick. Craig Jones/Allsport

By Travis Richmond, CNNSI.com

NEW YORK -- One of them could be on the verge of making history as the first-ever high school player to be taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. However, Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, and Tyson Chandler are downplaying any desire they might have to be the first high school player chosen first.

"Too many people get caught up in that," Brown said. "I don't care if I go No. 1; I want to go to the team that is the best fit for me."

Chandler acknowledged there is a strong likelihood one of the three could be chosen by the Washington Wizards with the first pick, but he also said draft position is not the ultimate talent evaluation. He equated one's draft position to choosing a college to play for -- ironic, considering none of the three will ever play in an NCAA contest.

"You don't pick a school just for its name. You pick the school that is best for you," Chandler said.

Curry at least admitted he would enjoy being known as the first prep No. 1 selection.

"It would mean a lot, because only one person is ever going to ever do it," Curry said. "If I was the first, it would be a dream come true."

Inevitably, the three will be linked for years, as their development is monitored and this year's draft is analyzed as to which team got the best player. This scrutiny is understood, and even expected, by Curry.

"I know people will compare us probably our whole career, and it will come up every time we play against each other," Curry said. "I realize it will probably always be there, but you just can't get involved in that. They're just high school kids, and I am just a high school kid. We have to worry about all the other guys we are going to be playing rather than each other."

Top picks have traditionally made immediate impacts for their respective clubs, but Brown said that expectation from a high school player's perspective is unfair.

"Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady played 13, 14 minutes [as rookies], and they are some of the best players in the world," Brown said. "I'm definitely not going to go in and say, 'I'm ready to play; you better put me out there.'" I'm going to go in and try to learn so when I get that chance hopefully I will be ready."

By playing for a team that's picking high enough to select any of the three, that opportunity is likely to come sooner rather than later. <

Foreign influx

Three foreign-born players are among the 16 invited to Wednesday's draft, including Spain's Pau Gasol and Yugoslavia's Vladimir Radmanovic.

"When I first came here, no one knew about me," said Radmanovic, a 6-foot-10, 227-pound forward/center. "Now, people are talking about me, which means I am doing well."

Gasol, a 7-foot, 227-pound forward who has been compared to Dallas' Dirk Nowitski, is making his initial visit to the United States.

"Here it is very big. Buildings are, wow, very high," said Gasol, who chose a "really good big steak" as one of his first American meals. "I am learning about all of the little things I have never seen before."

High school senior DeSagana Diop attended Oak Hill Academy in Virginia but was born in Senegal.

Older and wiser

Duke's Shane Battier and North Carolina's Brendan Haywood are the only collegiate seniors invited to the draft. Battier said he couldn't have possibly made the leap straight from high school to the NBA.

"I didn't know anything. I would have gotten chewed up and spit out," Battier said.

After leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA title last season and earning Player of the Year honors, Battier said he still felt he had something to prove during individual workouts for teams considering drafting him.

"You always have to prove yourself every time you step on the court. If you believe you are the best person in the gym, you have to prove it," Battier said. "Every time I stepped on the court for a workout, I wanted to prove that I was a little more athletic than they thought, a little smarter than they thought, and a little better than they thought."

Also chiming in favor of the college experience was Seton Hall's Eddie Griffin, who passed on entering the draft a year ago to spend one season in the collegiate ranks.

"I think I am more ready now, and I know a lot of things I didn't know last year," Griffin said. "I learned a lot from the coaching staff. And, I gained 20 pounds while I was there. Last year, I was real skinny."

The 6-foot-9 Griffin, who now tips the scales at 220 pounds, added he did think Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop were ready for the NBA physically because of their large frames -- 285 and 315 pounds, respectively.

Looking sharp

Before the draft, few of the invitees were willing to disclose what fashion they would be sporting at Wednesday night's event, but Michigan State's Jason Richardson was none too pleased about a Monday photo shoot he participated in for GQ magazine.

"That didn't go too good," Richardson laughed.

Other draftees who joined Richardson for the spread included Duke's Battier, Seton Hall's Eddie Griffin, high schooler Brown, Notre Dame's Troy Murphy, Villanova's Michael Bradley, and Arkansas' Joe Johnson.

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