The Next Big Step: JaVale McGee

It was the night of June 26th and the Indiana Pacers had just selected Roy Hibbert from Georgetown University with the 17th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. The Washington Wizards were then on the clock.

So who would it be? Another swingman like Nick Young or a big body like Brendan Haywood to fill the paint? Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and his staff quickly and confidently answered the question, and the news was delivered by NBA Commissioner David Stern. The Wizards selected JaVale McGee out of the University of Nevada.

Said Grunfeld about McGee, “He is a very athletic seven-footer with a 7’6” wingspan. He runs the floor very well, and he is an excellent shot blocker. He also has a nice perimeter game.” The comparisons were immediately made between McGee and the likes of Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche, two veteran Wizards’ bigs.

McGee hails from the University of Nevada, a school from the Western Athletic Conference, where he averaged 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game as a sophomore. Now that McGee has fulfilled his dreams of being drafted into the NBA, his next step is to prove the doubters wrong that have never seen the Nevada-product play. With his tremendous athleticism and length, McGee will look to disprove the notion of some that the only way to play in the NBA is to go to a big time basketball program.

With a rising center in Brendan Haywood and young seven-foot talent in Blatche and Oleksiy Pecherov, McGee finds himself in heavy competition among the Wizards bigs. However, as Grunfeld points out about McGee, “He is athletic enough to play the four position. He is also a great shot blocker and paint player, so he can play the five as well.” It is that versatility, among other things, that attracted the Wizards to McGee.

At a June 30th press conference, the seven-footer was excited to be in the city of Washington, DC. When asked about the role he will play with the Wizards, McGee said “I'm going to come here and work hard and try to have a role." And that wasn’t the only time that the big man used the words ‘hard work’ during the press conference. In fact, he used the term very often -- a great mindset to have as a rookie entering the league.

Not only was McGee’s talk of work ethic encouraging, but his confidence was too. When asked about his style of play, McGee said “I'm a multi-skilled big. I can pass and I can shoot and I can do some other things also. I think I fit in really well.” With great confidence and work ethic, watching this first round draft pick was very exciting in the Las Vegas summer league. McGee made a big first step towards success during summer league, as he demonstrated athleticism and his great potential in the Wizards’ five games. McGee averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in Vegas, and caught the attention of his watchful Head Coach.

“He has all the tools, and his athleticism was a big plus to us,” said Eddie Jordan. “We have a great group of young players to go with the core of veteran players to make a serious run in the Eastern Conference."

As for McGee, his plans are simply stated right now. “I'm going to work each day as hard as I can to help make the Wizards a better team.”

He has already begun making a great impression for the future.