Many of the players expected to be taken in the first round of the 2002 NBA Draft on June 26 did not participate in the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago last week. For those who did, it was a chance to impress the assembled throng of NBA general managers and scouts and perhaps earn an invitation for one last individual workout in a team’s home city. Those workouts, which can be crucial in deciding exactly where players are chosen, will continue right up until the last few days before the 2002 NBA Draft takes center stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Sixty-three players played at the camp, with all but three of those participating in all three games. While every pair of eyes sees something different, here are some of the players who seemed to stand out from the crowd and help their cause with the draft coming into sharper focus.
Lonny Baxter, Maryland
The Numbers: 18.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 50.0 FG%
The Performance: The beefy Maryland center led the camp in scoring and rebounding while shooting 50 percent from the field. His 30-point performance in the middle of his three games was the second-highest scoring effort of the camp. While some prefer to concentrate on his lack of height or modest leaping ability, Baxter continues to do the things he did to help the Terps win a national championship: rebound hard on both ends and score close to the basket. Baxter might not be pretty, but he gets much accomplished by staying within his limits and working harder than his opponent. Whether he goes in the late first or early second round, it's apparent that Baxter can play in the NBA.
Aaron McGhee, Oklahoma
The Numbers: 17.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 46.2 FG%
The Performance: Like Baxter, McGhee is another small power forward who consistently produces points and rebounds despite not possessing the explosive athleticism scouts pine for. His 31-point scoring binge in his first game held up as the top scoring game of the week. McGhee doesn’t always shoot a high percentage, but he has an uncanny knack of using his assortment of jump hooks and fallaway jumpers along with his muscular body to get shots off against bigger opponents. McGhee was the MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational and he would certainly have to qualify as one of the top performers in this event as well. Another McGhee strength: he gets to the free throw line often, with his 25 attempts over three games ranking second in the camp.
Corsley Edwards, Central Connecticut State
The Numbers: 16.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 57.7 FG%
The Performance: At 285 well-sculpted pounds, Edwards doesn’t get sand kicked in his face at the beach, and tends to get exactly where he wants to get to on the court. Edwards played well in a two-game stint at the PIT, and he played even better here. His numbers and his confidence increased in each of the three games in Chicago. As big as Edwards is, he showed excellent footwork around the basket and complemented that talent with a soft shooting touch. Nobody shot more free throws than Edwards’ 29 attempts (he made 19 for a 65.5% mark). It’s hard to predict how high Edwards will be selected in the draft, but he certainly has removed any questions centered on the level of competition he played against in college.
J.R. Bremer, St. Bonaventure
The Numbers: 14.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 58.6 FG%
The Performance: Bremer was the fourth-leading scorer in the nation this year, averaging 24.6 ppg over 30 games. While some question his size (6-foot-2) for the shooting guard position, Bremer has the quickness to get open for shots and a quick release when he is in the catch-and-shoot mode. He also showed an impressive ability to use his strength when going to the basket, something he is clearly unafraid to do. At his size, Bremer will likely be asked to perform some point guard duties in the professional ranks, and it is difficult to analyze how he would respond to that challenge. His role at St. Bonaventure was to score, not pass, and here he was on the same team with Tito Maddox and Cordell Henry, two of the better point guards in camp.
Ryan Humphrey, Notre Dame
The Numbers: 13.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 56.0 FG%
The Performance: Humphrey’s opportunity to impress scouts almost ended before it began as he took one of the scariest falls in recent memory in Wednesday’s opening game. Humphrey, a great leaper, was descending from a high jump when his rear end came down on the shoulder of 7-foot-1 teammate Chris Christoffersen. Humphrey went end over end and landed on the back of his head. The gym went silent, but the tension lifted quickly as Humphrey was able to regain his feet and walk to the bench. Amazingly, after a couple of stitches in his scalp, Humphrey returned to the game and played well. While Humphrey is not a polished perimeter shooter, he makes all the hustle plays coaches love and gets his points without having plays run for him. His makeup recalls a young Cedric Ceballos.
Udonis Haslem, Florida
The Numbers: 15 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 55.6 FG%
The Performance: Haslem made sure he caught everyone’s attention by putting up 22 points and making all 10 of his free throw attempts in his first game. His other two efforts here were of the solid, not spectacular variety, but his field goal percentage and his two turnovers in 69 minutes of play underlined exactly how efficient he was. Thanks to Florida’s high profile, scouts have been watching Haslem closely for a long time now, something that isn’t always a positive. However, Haslem seems to be able to score in the blocks against anyone he plays against and gets his share of rebounds against taller opponents. Like several of the players listed above, he might not have the “upside” of some prospects, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s pretty good right now.
Tito Maddox, Fresno State
The Numbers: 13.3 ppg, 4.0 apg
The Performance: Maddox’s statistics don’t jump off the page, and this is one case where the numbers are misleading. After a full year of not playing organized basketball, Maddox returned to the draft mix with a flourish. Maddox showed a quick first step to get by defenders, and he showed off a dazzling array of spin moves in the lane that allowed him to get shot over bigger help defenders. While Maddox’s perimeter shooting still needs work, he has the size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) that teams covet at the point position. Just a year ago, Jamison Brewer of Auburn, another big point guard with a questionable perimeter shot, showed some of the same strengths that Maddox displayed, and Brewer was selected 41st overall by Indiana. Look for Maddox to do at least that well come draft night.
Vincent Yarbrough, Tennessee
The Numbers: 14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 90.9 FT%
The Performance: Yarbrough is what my European basketball friends often call “a beautiful player.” A fluid, graceful athlete with a handsome shooting stroke, Yarbrough sometimes looked like the top talent at the camp. His captivating 27-point, nine-rebound, three-assist, three-steal masterpiece on Friday afternoon was about as good as it gets for a skilled small forward. However, Yarbrough’s other two games here included many nondescript moments when it hardly occurred to observers that he was in the game. That inconsistency has been a question Yarbrough has had to answer throughout his collegiate career, and he did not erase its rationale here. One of the game’s most respected scouts put it this way: “He’s a great talent. The question is, can you get it out of him?”
Predrag Savovic, Hawaii
The Numbers: 14.7 ppg, 48.4 FG%, 84.6 FT%
The Performance: Savovic did nothing to dispel the belief that he was one of the best shooters invited to play in Chicago. He made three of his six three-point attempts, and added several more 20-foot jumpers to boot. As might be expected of a player who recently celebrated his 26th birthday, he has an excellent court demeanor and knows precisely how to get the shots he can make. At 6-6 and 212 pounds, the man they call “Savo” is the proscribed size for the shooting guard position, and he showed plenty of grit on defense as well. While some scouts say his advanced age works against him, that thinking seems peculiar in a draft where team personnel experts also complain about how underdeveloped most of the draftable players are.
Ronald Murray, Shaw
The Numbers: 14.3 ppg, 45.5 FG%, 85.7 FT%
The Performance: Those of us who had seen Murray torch opposing teams for a host of 30-point games on his way to Division II Player of the Year honors were shocked and dismayed at his forgettable performance at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Fortunately, the committee that selects players for the Pre-Draft Camp saw fit to give Murray an opportunity to redeem himself, and he did just that in Chicago. Murray posted double figures in scoring in all three games in Chicago, including a 19-point outing in the finale. At 6-4 and 197 pounds, Murray has that elusiveness that allows him to locate and make mid-range jump shots where none appear to be available. When shooting his jumper, Murray gets uncommon elevation off the floor to provide him with a clear look at the basket.
Steve Logan, Cincinnati
The Numbers: 14 ppg, 7.5 apg, 1 topg
The Performance: As a consensus First Team All-American, Logan entered the camp with the highest profile of any player participating. After a respectable 12-point, four-assist, zero-turnover effort in the first game, Logan displayed all of his talents in the second game. He scored 16 points using a variety of offensive moves and shots, dished 11 assists, including some spectacular feeds on the fast break, and committed just two turnovers in 28 minutes of a frenetically paced game. Logan showed the same heart and determination that carried Cincinnati to a great season despite the absence of a second top offensive threat. Logan can’t grow – he’s just 5-11 – but he showed time and again how he has the resourcefulness to overcome that handicap. One scout said: “He ain’t Tim Hardaway, but he ain’t bad, either.”
Brooks Sales, Villanova
The Numbers: 11.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 71.4 FG%
The Performance: Sales is one of those players who never seem to be in the spotlight. He averaged 10.4 points and 9.1 rebounds at Villanova, but that didn’t earn him a selection to one of the Big East Conference’s three all-league teams. A the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Sales averaged 13.3 points and 9.7 rebounds, and was left off the all-consolation bracket team in favor of UCLA’s Billy Knight, who shot 36 percent from the field. After two games in Chicago, it appeared Sales would again go unnoticed. He put the matter to rest in the final game, when he authored a 26-point, 12-rebound outing tat included making 11 of 13 shots from the field. And just to make sure nobody missed him, Sales hit a pair of three-point baskets in the final 11 seconds as his team nearly erased a big deficit before losing by four points.
Byron Mouton, Maryland
The Numbers: 13 ppg, 59.3 FG%
The Performance: Mouton was one of just a handful of players who scored in double figures every game while shooting at least 50 percent in every game. Mouton is a high-percentage shooter when he limits himself to shots within 18 feet, and few players his size have mastered the baseline jumper as he has. A high-energy player who readily accepts the challenge of guarding small forwards as well as big guards, Mouton doesn’t quite have the perimeter shooting range NBA scouts like to see at the two and three spots. However, Mouton’s fearlessness, his aggressiveness and his defense, not necessarily in that order, will make him a tough guy to keep off an NBA roster. A similar player, Adrian Griffin, plays a key role on the ultra-talented Dallas Mavericks.
Darius Songaila, Wake Forest
The Numbers: 10 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 60.9 FG%
The Performance: Some would say Songaila should have been more aggressive offensively at the camp, and perhaps that is true. However, it’s hard to fault the ACC star for what he did when he received the ball, which was put it in the basket. Songaila has a series of effective post moves, only some of which scouts at the camp got to see. While his dunks may be few and far between, the Lithuanian forward has a total package of skills at the power forward spot and has proven time and again how physically strong and tough he is. He led all players at the camp with six steals, another facet of his underrated defensive game. Whether Songaila is picked in the first round or not, he has the skills and bearing of a long-term NBA player.
Cordell Henry, Marquette
The Numbers: 12.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 50.0 FG%
The Performance: Henry exploded on the scene in Chicago the first day with a 26-point game, making 12 of 19 shots and penetrating to the basket successfully. He didn’t come close to matching that showing in the other two games, but on balance Henry easily outplayed most of the bigger name point guards who came to Chicago. Over three games, Henry compiled 13 assists and only four turnovers, a better than 3-to-1 ratio. At 5-9 and 155 pounds, Henry doesn’t project anywhere in the NBA. However, neither did Muggsy Bogues, or more recently, Earl Boykins, now with the Los Angeles Clippers. Henry may have to go to minor league route to find his way onto an NBA roster, but there was no question he came prepared to play in Chicago and delivered a quality performance.