For the last 35 years, Marty Blake has been identifying top college and international talent as the NBA’s Director of Scouting. A former general manager of the St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks in the 1950s and ’60s, Marty will be sharing thoughts and observations from the road as he crisscrosses the country identifying top collegiate talent throughout the season leading up to the 2006 NBA Draft in June.

NBA Pre-Draft Camp Wrap Up

A first class operation, that’s the best way to describe the Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Complex which hosted the NBA’s Pre-Draft Camp there June 6th through June 11th.

That was the comment by Matt Winick, the Vice President of Scheduling and Game Operations, who was one of the founders of the original idea in 1982.

This year’s camp was the 25th affair with the first 24 camps located at several venues in the Chicago, Illinois area.

The Disney complex covers some 47 square miles and, if you want to visualize the size of it, consider that the borough of Manhattan would easily fit within its’ confines.

There are more sports at all levels of competition held here – from high school to the pros – than in any other similar setup in the country.

It is host to more than 170 events each year including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) training camp and the Atlanta Braves spring training exercises and games.

The Braves play in a show place baseball park which would rival any minor league baseball field in the country.

As far as I can remember, the Braves usually sell out every spring training game. And they still utilize this facility for minor league functions.

There are two college basketball tournaments held here – the Elite Eight Pre-Season Tourney, bringing together eight of the top Division II colleges and a new one scheduled as follows:

This coming Thanksgiving, aided by a change in NCAA regulations, an inaugural event co-sponsored by ESPN-U will feature eight Division I teams – including West Virginia and Virginia Tech of the Big East.

This new venture could eventually rival the Maui Classic which has been a long-time holiday event in Maui, Hawaii.

The basketball facility is one of the finest in the country with eight or more courts, great team lookers, plenty of parking and room for 5,000 fans which will create a lot of interest for court fans who can double dip the sundry other events of Disney World during their Turkey Day stay.

Jeff Sturgeon, who has been affiliated with Disney World for seventeen years, heads up the venue as Manager of New and Special Events, Planning and New Event Development.

He was a gracious host and went out of his way to make the NBA family feel at home.

The play of the 61 college seniors, early entry players and several international players was at a high level. Several international players who accepted invitations to attend had to cancel when their respective teams were still in contention for a championship award.

The format was changed somewhat as the Friday morning drills were eliminated and three games were played starting at 10:30 a.m.

Since I have been involved in all 24 previous ones, I was excited about the level of play during the week.

“You have to come prepared to compete,” I explained to some of the many international coaches who were guests of the NBA at this event.

Everyone agreed that the talent level was up, including the play of the 15 early entries players who attended the camp.

The coaching staff of veteran NBA assistant coaches and former players, a number of whom were alumni of previous camps, was exceptional.

The actual four-day playing schedule (another three days are utilized for complete physicals) saw two games decided by four points, one by one point and another went into overtime, 103-100.

The conception that this draft will not stack up to previous ones is a stretch.

I have been involved in 54 drafts, 52 of them as either a general manager or as a consultant to the league and the NBA teams.

Come back in a couple of years and you will find a good number of this year’s players from both the Portsmouth Invitational and the Orlando Pre-Draft event on NBA rosters – and contributing.

As I have often said, there is no such thing as a bad draft – unless you do not have a pick in either round.

Just ask the Dallas Mavericks who added Devin Harris, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki among others via the draft.

We didn’t have time to meet Mickey or Minnie but everyone told us to have a magical day.

We did all week.