Many collegians who declared for NBA draft face long odds Print
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Friday, 30 May 2008 08:07
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 KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -Keith Brumbaugh doesn't want to hear the odds.
He doesn't want to hear the irrefutable numbers, that there are far more players on the court at the NBA predraft camp than there are available spots in the June 26 draft. Doesn't want to hear that the overwhelming majority of players at the Disney complex near Orlando won't be in the league next year, either.
It's not a harsh assessment. It's simple math. The demand for jobs in the NBA just exceeds the supply, plain and simple.
But to someone like Brumbaugh, these days, it's easier to shun reality.
He's never been closer to his dream. He's got to get there. Right?
``I'm trying to make my own reality right now,'' Brumbaugh said. ``I don't have a magic ball. This is my first time officially really playing in a game where scouts are seeing me. So I'm optimistic.''
So was everyone else wearing the NBA-issued blue and white jerseys that served as their uniforms during the last week of May. For some, this is just the start. For others, this might be the only time they play before the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Pat Riley, whether they want to realize that or not.
The names of 60 players will be called on draft night. And 69 players who still had college eligibility applied for those spots - some of which will be gobbled up by graduating collegians and international players.
Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, their spots are obviously safe.
Brumbaugh and dozens of other campers might be looking for a miracle.
``You just want to believe, man, there's still a chance, still a chance, still a chance,'' Brumbaugh said. ``I guarantee, there isn't one person out here saying 'I'm not going to get drafted.' Not one person. And I'm definitely one of them.''
He says it matter-of-factly, absolute in his belief.
Maybe he's on to something. Hey, he's beaten long odds before.
He was Florida's high school ``Mr. Basketball'' in 2005, declared for the NBA draft, then pulled out and decided to enroll at Oklahoma State, one of the hundreds of colleges that wooed the lanky 6-foot-9 player who averaged more than 30 points per game as a senior at DeLand High, not far from the site of the predraft camp.
His troubles were already beginning.
The NCAA questioned his ACT score, forced him to retake the standardized test, and Brumbaugh simply couldn't get the required score for college eligibility. He started having run-ins with police and running with the wrong sort of people. He got arrested six times, for things ranging from evading police to weapons possession. He eventually spent 77 days in jail, his only solace being that guards at one of the two facilities he spent time at had taken a liking to him and decided to let him work out, alone, starting at 6:30 every morning.
``I've been down, man,'' Brumbaugh said. ``Sitting behind them bars, man, come on. Sitting behind them bars, that's not a place for an aspiring basketball player. After that, I'm just trying to will my way back to the top.''
It's not easy to do that at the predraft camp, where players are assigned to teams and play three scrimmages under the watchful eyes of virtually every executive and scout in the league.
Out of last year's predraft crop, only 20 players were drafted, with only three of those making their way into the first round.
Most of the 20 were veritable non-factors in the NBA this season. A handful didn't even make it into the league. To some, that's sobering news.
``It's like starting all over at the predraft camp,'' said Mike Taylor, who starred for Iowa State before being dismissed from the program and taking his game to the NBA Development League this past season.
Taylor could be the first player from the D-League to get drafted. He scored 27 points in the league's championship game, helping the Idaho Stampede win the title.
Having some experience at the pro level gives Taylor a leg up in this camp, where just about everyone else is a collegian.
That doesn't mean he believes getting his name called on June 26 is a slam-dunk.
``After I left school, I was at home for three months and I couldn't get into a gym. I had a lot of downtime to think,'' Taylor said. ``It humbled me. And it made me decide that if I ever got the chance again to make my dream of becoming a professional basketball player happen, I was going to do it. Doors have been opened for me. I need to be ready for the opportunity.''
That's Brumbaugh's philosophy as well.
He's had some moments during the camp. Several scouts commented on how they like his energy. He's a better ballhandler than some of them expected; since he played at Hillsborough Community College this season, his 35 points-per-game average leading the NJCAA by a huge margin, some scouts hadn't seen much of Brumbaugh in years.
However, scouts from three different franchises all said essentially the same thing: The NBA isn't for him quite yet.
That will be the reality for most players here, and in some cases, it does hit home.
NBA officials held a meeting at the start of the camp, asking players what they wanted to get out of the week. Of the five or six dozen players in the room, one - Charles Rhodes of Mississippi State - offered the most succinct answer.
``I want a job,'' Rhodes said.
North Carolina's Ty Lawson is one of the lucky ones at the camp. If he doesn't believe that he'll be a top-20 pick in the draft, he'll head back to the Tar Heels and play in one of college basketball's most storied programs for another season. He has options. He doesn't feel the same pressure as players like Brumbaugh.
``It hits home for a lot of people that this is their job, this is what they want to do for the rest of their life, or try to do, anyway,'' said Lawson, the Heels' star point guard. ``It's not easy. You can't think about that on the court. You've just got to play your game and do your best and let things happen.''
Easier said than done, especially for Brumbaugh.
Life got away from him for a few years. He blew some golden opportunities. But now he's the father of a 17-month-old girl. He's changed his cell phone number countless times, trying to keep the bad influences from his past out of his life. And he already feels he's overcome some things far tougher than trying to make the NBA.
``It's a personal thing for me right now,'' Brumbaugh said. ``I'm about business, man. I've learned from my mistakes. I've paid my dues. I'm ready to just play basketball and get back to being a basketball player. And I'm in it for the long haul. I've been playing basketball since I was 7 years old. I come from a fleet of athletes in my family. And we aren't quitters.''
 

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