Saturday, June 26, 2004

Area NBA picks have plenty of reasons for hope

But they don't have it 'made'

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

Statistics alone indicate that a challenging mission lies ahead for the three NBA draft picks with Xavier ties, each of whom went in the second round of Thursday's rookie draft.

Twenty of the 29 second-round picks from 2003 did not make an NBA roster, and 21 of the second-round picks in 2002 no longer play in the NBA.

Second-round picks, unlike first-rounders, do not receive guaranteed contracts. Instead, players who go after the first round or are undrafted must earn a contract through summer-league and training-camp performances.

The situations are favorable, however, for the three picks with Xavier connections - Lionel Chalmers, David Young and Romain Sato - when examined individually. All three were coveted second-round choices by the teams that selected them, especially Sato, who went to the San Antonio Spurs at No. 52 overall, seven picks from the end of the draft.

"We could not believe it, that he was still there," Spurs director of scouting Lance Blanks said of Sato. "When you saw what he brings as a player, we thought he would be really difficult to pass on."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich contacted Sato and his guardian, Tom Thompson, by telephone after the draft to tell them the Spurs believe Sato has a chance of making their roster.

"They told us they were dumbfounded they were able to get Romain," Thompson said, "and they think he'll fit right in."

Sato had been projected to be an early second-round pick, but his draft stock fell after a poor showing at the Chicago predraft camp.

The Spurs were the final team for which he worked out individually, just days before the draft.

"I guess it's almost more important as to (which team) you go to than where you go," Thompson said. "They were impressed with his defense, and Popovich told Romain that he has a big heart."

Chalmers, Sato's teammate at Xavier for the last four years, surprised even himself when he was selected early in the second round by the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 33. When his agent, Justin Zanick, called to tell him, Chalmers didn't believe him.

"He thought I was messing with him," Zanick said. "I said, 'Go check.' It was pretty funny."

But as a player who improved his draft stock significantly in the last two months, Chalmers might have a good chance of landing a contract with the Clippers because they were eager to draft him.

"He'll get a real opportunity in the NBA. When a team uses a high second-round pick, it means they have a need there," Zanick said. "We'll sit down with (Clippers general manager) Elgin Baylor over the weekend or early next week and see where they are" in terms of contract negotiations.

Young, who transferred from Xavier to North Carolina Central, was not surprised with his selection at No. 41 to the Seattle SuperSonics. Sonics coach Nate McMillan had told Young's agent, Brian Elfus, that Young definitely would be an NBA player based on his predraft workouts with the team.

"Where he was drafted, he's got a good shot at getting a contract if he plays well in the summer league," Elfus said.

Young begins training with the team July 12 for a summer league that starts July 15.

"I'm glad to be in this position," he said. "I have a good chance, and I have no doubt I'll make the team."



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