Celtics Work Out Six Prospects

St. John's freshman point guard Omar Cook was among the players that worked out for the Celtics
Photo courtesy of St. John's

For most basketball players aspiring to play in the NBA, draft workouts are a rite of passage.

They provide coaches and general managers a chance to view players up close. They not only are an opportunity for a basketball operations staff to spot strengths and weaknesses, but they also provide a chance to find out - from the player directly - how he might fit into the organization's plans.

But for the Celtics, a draft workout not only consists of the traditional drills and strength tests, but also a test of a player's skills off the court. It is, in effect, a job interview.

That is the belief among many of the players involved in the Celtics pre-draft workouts at the Sports Authority Training Center on Tuesday. For several hours on Tuesday, two groups - the first group consisting of North Carolina's Brendan Haywood, Arizona's Loren Woods and Michigan St.'s Zach Randolph, the second group made up of North Carolina's Joe Forte, Clemson's Will Soloman and Omar Cook of St. John's - took the floor. After performing a series of shooting drills in front of Celtics Head Coach Jim O'Brien and Assistant Coach John Carroll, they went through another set of drills which put them in one-on-one situations. Finally, they each went through speed drills for Strength and Conditioning Coach Shawn Brown.

"This process is all new to me," said Woods. "The whole process, but there are no nerves. You are just going out there and doing what you have been doing for the last 10 or 15 years of your life. A lot of fundamentals. Not anything too difficult or too demanding, but enough to get the sweat going."

However, that is only the first portion of the workout. After showering, the players were then asked to work out their brains for the Celtics staff. After taking a written examination, the players then move one-by-one into O'Brien's office for a closed-door interview session with the basketball operations staff.

North Carolina center Brendan Haywood, who had already finished his workout, caught up with schoolmate Joseph Forte
"Interviews are very important because nobody wants to draft a dummy, so it is important that you speak well and you can communicate your thoughts clearly," said North Carolina senior Brendan Haywood, one of six players who worked out for the Celtics in preparation for the 2001 NBA Draft. "I like to present myself in a manner in which I look like a professional. I come in a suit and a tie on the first night when we first meet the coaches and then I just work hard in the workouts to show them that I have the heart and the effort and that I can be a good NBA player."

"It is just like interviewing for a real job," said Woods. "You are just hoping that they don't think you are an idiot and that you can contribute to the program or the organization. We are all mostly good people. They just want to know if you are a raging alcoholic or if you have abused anyone. I think that this is something the NBA is leaning towards for the future, making sure guys are good people. It is not that you are young or older, they are just looking for good clean guys."

The draft workout is only a sliver of the entire talent evaluation process for the Celtics. Between the workouts, the extensive scouting done by Director of Player Personnel Leo Papile and General Manager Chris Wallace, as well as the video viewed by O'Brien, the Celtics feel that by draft day they will have done everything possible to learn about a potential pick.

"(The workout) is important, particularly if you draft a guy (you work out)," said Wallace. "You started the relationship a little earlier and you get to know exactly what you are getting into and you are not strangers. It is important, but it is only a part of the puzzle. It is not like if you ace the workout, now you are going to get drafted. That is really the most important thing - who they are during actual game competition, not who they are during these simulated Olympics workouts."

"I use the workout to confirm things I have studied on the tape," said O'Brien. "As anybody that has been around the Celtics can tell you, I am a big video guy. I watch a lot of it because you can stop it and run it back and make sure they are matched up against high quality players. You can see how they perform, how they adjust to adversity and how they deal with success. Then you can see what you perceive as strengths and weaknesses and then get them in front of you and confirm whether you or not you are accurate and find out what they have been working on."

Most players have no illusions about how important these workouts are. Between their high school and college coaches, as well as their agents, the point is drilled home that a good performance in a draft workout can only help on draft day.

"It is a process that you are preparing for two, three or four years of your life," said Woods. "It is something that all good college coaches and certainly something that Coach (Lute) Olsen has (prepared me for.)"

"I think even when I was in high school at DeMatha (in Maryland) they were prepping me for certain situations like being in the spotlight a lot and just learning how the game is played the right way," said Forte.