Players gather to discuss their thoughts a day before the NBA Draft
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June 27 -- Agents are negotiating. GMs are working the phones while coaches and scouts are doing last-minute evaluating. Wednesday night, 60 players will be inducted into the Draft Class of 2006 in perhaps the biggest moment in their lives.
Which explains the major concern on LSU forward Tyrus Thomas' mind as he spoke with reporters during Tuesday's media availability session.
"Don't have a bad suit," he said. "That's my biggest fear about the Draft -- that my suit won't look good enough."
Thomas' suit, of course, is the only selection he can control Wednesday night. Now he and his fellow prospects can only sit back and wait as personnel officials decide where they'll be calling home next year. As many as five players, including Thomas, are considered candidates to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, which figures to be the most unpredictable in years.
"This is the time to keep my mind off what could happen, and where I could possibily be," UConn forward Rudy Gay said. "You just fill time with talking to the media and looking good for you guys."
Added Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge: "It's a very crazy process."
A process that can be so disorienting that Gay hesitated when he tried to remember that he flew into New York City just last night. That's what happens when an endless schedule of interviews and workouts makes your days and nights collide, and "weekends off" disappear.
"It's been very tiresome," N.C. State forward Cedric Simmons said. "The worst is traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast and then having to workout the next day."
And when that happens -- and you're 6-10, on a commercial flight, and relying on your legs to get you through your next workout -- man tries to adapt to his environment.
"A couple of times I tried to get an exit row," Simmons said. "That's a plus. The exit row."
The crutch Villanova guard Randy Foye relied on to get through the process could only be surmised as adrenaline. Despite his hectic schedule, the AP All-America First Team has had consistently strong workouts according to media reports.
"I don't think I've ever worked this hard," he said. "Sometimes I know I'll be dead-tired from traveling, and I'll go out there and perform at the highest level, where people are impressed."
Still, Foye seems to have trouble digesting that his dream is about to come true.
"It's so surreal," he said. "It's just crazy to me. It's happening so quick. When I think about the season ending, and we were playing against Florida, and how upset I was. Then a couple of months later, I'm happy like – I don't think I've ever been this happy. "
It's easy to understand why. As a New York Post article outlined in March, Foye's father died in a motorcycle accident when Randy was three years old, and his mother walked out on him at the age of five. Two years ago, his older brother was shot 11 times.
Thomas did the "extra" things to get to this point.
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images
Finally, Foye's in a place in his life where everything seems to be going his way, and he's not the only one.
"When I was younger, I really didn't play basketball, because I sucked," Aldridge said. "There was a couple of neighborhood parks, but I used to go just to watch, because nobody would pick me."
What happened between then and now, when the Texas pivot a candidate emerged into a No. 1 overall NBA Draft candidate, was a boost from his older brother, LaVonte.
"My brother just took me under his wing, and he was just like 'If you want to get better, than let's work at it.'" Aldridge said. "He was the one who used to take me to the park, when everybody wasn't there and just work on my skills.
"Then if people were there, he'd pick me on his team, and he'd make me shoot it. My brother just pushed me along."
Thomas was a late-bloomer as well. Not highly regarded out of high school, he was just 6-7, 185 when he arrived on LSU's campus – two inches and 20 pounds smaller than he is now. He redshirted the 2004-05 season as a true freshman while he worked on developing himself into an SEC-ready player.
"It kind of gave me an edge to prove what I knew what I was capable of doing," Thomas said. "Prove to everybody that I should be in the same category as the other college elites."
After practice, Thomas would do extra sprints, jump shooting and weight lifting on his own.
"You know, Michael Jordan once said, 'The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is 'extra' so it's just the extra things that you have to do that's what makes you better.'"
Washington guard Brandon Roy's journey is partially defined by an "immature" decision he made as a high school senior in 2002. Roy, also an unheralded recruit, declared for the NBA Draft. He later withdrew and played four years for the Huskies, but the episode still follows him today.
"Looking back at it now, I did that, and it's something that's a part of my past," Roy said. "I grew from it. It forced me to become a better player. Like people asked me, why did I do that? 'I don't know if you were that good,' they said. So everyday I try to keep that in the back of my mind and get better."
Nowadays Roy is getting the last laugh. And so are all the other players who will be in the Green Room tomorrow night.
"I told my friend (since second grade), I might be a millionaire," said UConn forward Hilton Armstrong, one of 11 of the 14 Americans invited to the Draft who never received an invitation to the McDonald's High School All-American game. "We started just laughing for like forever. A million dollars, that's crazy."
With the emergence of fame comes an increase of requests from those around you. People want to be at your post-draft party. They want a ticket to be in the audience at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. They want a seat at your table in the Green Room.
"Everybody thinks, in the back of their minds, they played an important part in your life, but it’s not like that," Foye said. "Certain people should be there and certain people shouldn't."
Added Gonzaga forward and co-NABC National Player of the Year Adam Morrison: "Everybody wants a piece of whatever you've got. A lot of it is never meant to be in harm, but you've got to say 'No' and surround yourself with the right kind of people.
"That's why I pay him (my agent) to say 'No' to other people."