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Draft hopefuls strut their stuff in the Valley of the Sun
Midwest Wins 2001 Desert Classic
By Michael Jacobs
TEMPE, Ariz., May 5 -- The 2001 Nike Desert Classic, complete with scout scrutiny and the presence of notable NBA executives such as Wizards president Michael Jordan, gave 41 draft-hopeful seniors the chance to individually prove that they are worthy of being selected by an NBA team on draft day, June 27.

Edgerson
Arizona's Eugene Edgerson gets his shot blocked as a member of the Atlantic team at the 2001 Nike Desert Classic.
AP Photo
However, the consensus among many of the NBA scouts in attendance at Arizona State's Wells Fargo Arena was that only four or five out of the 41 participating seniors could go in the first round of NBA Draft 2001.

As the Desert Classic championship game concluded -- won by the Midwest over Central, 103-86 -- Southern Cal guard Jeff Trepagnier (Midwest), West Virginia forward Calvin Bowman (Midwest), Stanford forward Jarron Collins (Pacific) and Michigan State forward Andre Hutson (Midwest) had significantly raised their draft stock.

"I think it was definitely a very good tournament. Everyone came out and played hard. I think Texas guard Darren Kelly was a last-minute addition who came out and showed what he can do," said NBA Assistant Director of Scouting Ryan Blake. "Jeff (Trepagnier) really helped his chances and shot the ball the way we expected. He really played well. Stanford forward Jarron Collins could have made the all-tourney team."

Trepagnier, who averaged 10.6 points per game over his four-year collegiate career, was named the Desert Classic Most Valuable Player after pouring in 18.3 points per game off 55.3 shooting from the field (21-38).

"I think I improved my chances and my stock a lot. The knock on me was the I couldn't hit my jump shot consistently, but I think I came out, played well and hit my shots," Trepagnier said. "We didn't have anyone who was selfish. And my stamina held up pretty well. I never stop working -- when the season finished I never stopped working on my game and my conditioning."

For role players such as University of Arizona forward Eugene Edgerson, the Desert Classic provided a forum for other basketball avenues.

"If I want to continue playing basketball, I've got to play well here. But I still always try to play the game at ease. Whether it's here or at the McKale Center, you just try to play hard," Edgerson said. "I don't think any of us are conditioned to playing 15 minutes straight, but it's always good to play against the best competition."

Edgerson, who is hoping to play in Europe next year, said he understood why former Wildcat teammate Loren Woods declined to attend the tourney, but still hustled to extol the virtues of the Desert Classic .

"I plan on seeing just how this goes and then take it from there. It's good, because I'm playing with a lot of talented guys," Edgerson said. "It's good playing with guys who have a lot of confidence and want to win."

The Midwest, which posted a tournament-best 46 percent from the field, won the championship on the confidence of its shooting and balanced scoring. Six Midwest players -- Trepagnier (27), Texas-El Paso forward Brian Wolfram (18), Hutson (13), Florida International guard Carlos Arroyo (13), Bowman (11) and Nebraska center Kimani Ffriend (11) -- finished with double digits in the final.

Both Midwest and Central settled for perimeter shots throughout the championship game. But after sleepwalking to a 43-37 first half lead, Midwest began to outrun Central in the second half, with Trepagnier chasing down defensive rebounds and igniting a transition offense. Trepagnier swooshed NBA-distance threes with ease and late in the second half, he slipped behind two Central players to tomahawk a one-handed dunk.

In the consolation final, Pacific outlasted Atlantic 83-78 behind Collins' sharp shooting (4-7 field goals, 8-10 free throws) and an Evans double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) despite a heady, scrappy performance from Michigan State guard Charlie Bell (19 points, 8-16 shooting).

Tournament Notes:

  • Syracuse forward Damone Brown (Central), Kelly (Central), Bell (Atlantic), Hutson (Midwest), Georgia forward Anthony Evans (Pacific), Southern California forward/center Brian Scalabrine (Atlantic) were named to the all-Desert Classic team.
  • Detroit Mercy point guard Rashad Phillips (Central), who played well Thursday night against the Midwest, re-aggravated a bruised tendon in his left ankle and sat out the final two contests. Phillips, who scored 13 points with 7 assists in his only 24 minutes, will be profiled in an upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine.
  • The slam dunk championship went to N.C. State forward Damon Thornton (Central), who edged Trepagnier 45-44 in total points after he connected on a resounding reverse double-clutch stuff off a self-thrown lob.
  • Every NBA team had at least one scout in attendance during the entire tournament. Other recognizable faces included: UCLA head coach Steve Lavin, former Phoenix Suns head coach and current broadcaster Cotton Fitzsimmons; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Mike Dunleavy; former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West; Lakers advanced scout Kurt Rambis; Suns guard Penny Hardaway and center Daniel Santiago; Phoenix Mercury head coach Cynthia Cooper; and University of Arizona forward Richard Jefferson.
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