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Q & A with Ron Mercer: 1997 NBA Draft Memories

Bulls.com: What do you remember most about the week of the draft?

Ron Mercer: The one thing that stands out is that I was really excited to go (to Charlotte, where the draft was held). You never know with the ins and outs of the draft. You can be (projected to be picked) in the top 2 or 3 one day but on the day of the draft you can slide for some reason- you don't have any workouts that time but you can still slide. The first media day we had the day before the draft, all the guys were around me and I never knew why. I wondered if something had changed. I thought maybe I had moved up but all the questions were directed towards me about sliding and I never knew why.

Mercer, Walter McCarty and Antoine Walker
Mercer had hoped to be reunited with ex-teammates and college coach Rick Pitino in Boston.
(J. Garrabrant, NBAE)
Most of the media was telling me, "Your college coach (Rick Pitino, then head coach for the Boston Celtics, had the third and sixth picks that year) is not going to take you in the draft. He says that you can't create your own shot, things like that. I never knew how serious it was until draft day- then I saw on TV that I was going to slide to 12 or 13. I came to find out that it was a trick that Coach Pitino played at the time. He wanted to be able to get a point guard (the Celtics drafted Chauncey Billups with the third pick) and a shooting guard at the time. The teams picking at 4 and 5 both wanted point guards also, so he knew I would be more available at the sixth than Chauncey would have. He then told everyone he wouldn't pick me and at the end of the day, his plan worked. I was very happy to go sixth and to be reunited with my college coach be back with some of the other guys like (Kentucky teammate) Antoine Walker, too.

Bulls.com: Describe what you felt when NBA Commissioner David Stern announced your name.

Mercer: It was exciting. During the time I was praying- I really wanted to be a Celtic no matter which pick it was. Once he called out my name, I was really relieved, just to know that I was going to be there around guys that I was already familiar with.

Ron Mercer
Mercer isn't surprised by all of the draft's early entries- he left after his sophomore year at Kentucky.
(S. Woltmann, NBAE)
Bulls.com: What were your draft workouts like?

Mercer: The workouts are strange sometimes because you never know what they are looking for. For instance, I worked out for Denver, who had the fifth pick that year, and I felt it was my best workout. They did a lot of running and shooting drills and those are really parts of my game. I never understood this and I should have asked them while I was there (Mercer played for Denver during the 1999-2000 season), but the first drill they had me doing was shooting off screens. I made 28 out of 30 shots- it was my best performance by far and they still didn't take me. You would think- from a basketball standpoint- that was by best workout, as far as shooting goes at least. I also worked out for Philly, Vancouver, New Jersey and about two of those teams did physiological tests in addition to the physical workout. In a player's mind, you really never know exactly what a team is looking for and so they just try to fit everything in.

Bulls.com: You entered the draft after your sophomore year at University of Kentucky. Does it surprise you that the draft has progressively gotten younger and younger?

Mercer: It is something that you could see coming, more and more every year. My take on it is that everybody has different things that they have on their minds. My reasons for leaving were that I felt I was ready to leave and I had people- including my coaches- telling me that it was best for me to leave. There wasn't going to be a big step up for me (in the draft) if I had stayed another year and there would have been the chance for injury. My situation was probably different from other guys- some may have financial problems or other things going on so it's different for everybody.

-- Adam Fluck, Bulls.com