Saturday, June 12, 2004

Sato trying to show he can handle play at point

NBA predraft camp

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CHICAGO - For four seasons at Xavier, Romain Sato demonstrated his shooting ability to NBA scouts, leaving as the school's all-time leading 3-point shooter.

The last three days have been difficult for Sato, however, because he has played as much at point guard at the NBA predraft camp as he has at shooting guard. The pressure of auditioning in front of a gym full of scouts, coaches and general managers increases, Sato said, when he's playing a position for which he wasn't prepared.

"I'm just trying to play hard," Sato said. "It's kind of hard, but it's good for me. I'm going to have to be a combo guard if I want to go in the league."

Despite a pedestrian performance at the Moody Bible Institute, where Sato looked average offensively and defensively, most scouts predict he's still a late first-round pick for the June 24 draft.

"With his style, he looks like he could be a role player for someone," a Western Conference scout said. "There's 30 teams, so there might be two teams in the first round that could use someone like him. Otherwise, he'll go for sure in the second round."

The difference between going in the first round and going in the second round is substantial, because first-round picks receive guaranteed contracts, but second-round selections do not.

Sato has impressed more than a half-dozen teams with his athleticism and potential at individual workouts during the last five weeks. He has several more workouts, where his ball handling is expected to be reviewed, leading up to the draft. Until he was measured here at 6 feet 2 in socks and 6-3 1/4 in shoes, Sato was pegged strictly as a shooting guard. Now, even with a 6-11 wingspan, he could be slightly undersized, which is why he must demonstrate point guard abilities.

"It's obvious, when he has the ball in the open court, what he's going to do," another scout said. "He needs to incorporate some fakes with his dribble."

Accomplished point guards would struggle to reinvent their games in a matter of three days, which is why Sato tries not to get too frustrated. Teams are not going to make final decisions on him based on three days in Chicago, where fundamental basketball takes a backseat to guys looking for their own shot.

Sato found that out early Wednesday when Andre Emmett scored seven points in four minutes against Sato, who struggled with shooting (3-of-10 for six points) and turnovers (three) during the game. Sato came back stronger the next day to score 10 points.

"I'm just doing what I can do, playing my game," Sato said. "Play defense. If I'm open, shoot it. It's hard to get a touch to just show them what you can do."



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