|Donovan hire steals spotlight from NBA predraft camp|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 01 June 2007 19:14|
Shortly after Donovan's hiring as Magic coach became official on Friday, many of the men he helped turn into soon-to-be millionaires became part of a very busy and compelling final day at the NBA predraft camp.
One of the players his Florida Gators defeated to win their second national championship was the star of the day.
Daquean Cook, formerly of Ohio State and now headed to the NBA as a likely first-round pick, finally came through with a standout performance after struggling through the first few days of the camp. The final day was anything but sluggish for Cook and all on-lookers as there was plenty of intrigue throughout The Milk House gym at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
This day provided the last chance for 62 potential draft picks to make a lasting impression on many of the NBA's top scouts, general managers and coaches. The result was a day of very entertaining basketball with all three games going down to the wire, including one in overtime, as players' competitive instincts overtook their concerns about draft status.
"Every time you get in front of these guys it's important," Virginia Tech star Zabian Dowdell said of being in the presence of Michael Jordan, Jerry West and Lenny Wilkens, among others.
"Even if you're walking around, you wanna try to impress the guys by the way you walk. So I think this is a very important camp."
Still, none of it compared to the buzz created by what was happening in downtown Orlando, where the Magic were announcing they had lured Donovan away from the University of Florida to be their new coach.
Three of his ex-Gators, meanwhile, made their first appearance on the court at this week's camp. Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford were on hand to take part in drills, get their physicals taken and undergo strength and agility testing.
Among the other expected lottery picks finally getting onto the floor Friday, a day after talking to the media, were Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Brandan Wright, Mike Conley Jr. and Acie Law. With their draft status fairly secure, those collegiate stars decided to otherwise not participate in a camp that included mostly players who would be happy just to get drafted, and a select few trying to sneak into the first round.
"I think they played hard during the season, they put themselves in a pretty good position to make that choice," said ex-Alabama forward Jermareo Davidson, who closed the camp with a solid 16-point, seven-rebound effort.
Many thought Cook should have made the same choice after a lackluster first three days of camp made it appear leaving Ohio State after his freshman season was a mistake. He occasionally showed off a smooth shooting touch and impressive athletic ability during drills, but his performance through two games was mediocre as he combined for 14 points on 7-of-19 shooting - 0-for-3 from 3-point range - with eight turnovers.
Rather than leaving scouts with doubts about whether he should be a first-rounder, Cook may have left little question he should be picked among the top 30 after scoring 22 points - the most by any player on Friday - and hitting three 3-pointers. One of those shots came from 28 feet with the shot clock about to expire.
"I was taking the same shots, but today was just that day," Cook said. "I really hadn't been getting into the flow of the game like I was today. I felt like I've been sitting back for a couple of days feeling like I was getting my shots here and there, but I feel like this was my time to take advantage of the opportunity I had."
Former Buckeyes teammate Ron Lewis scored in double figures for the second straight game as he completed an up-and-down camp. The NCAA tournament hero for Ohio State often made careless plays and went through long stretches struggling from the perimeter, but he also had some good shooting streaks and showed he is a very capable passer and defender.
"I don't know as far as teams are concerned, but I know I'm getting positive feedback just being aggressive. It's been a good week," said Lewis, who might be fortunate just to get picked late in the second round.
"It's a lot to evaluate in three days, just these games, but I think they had a lot more to evaluate over the course of the season and the (NCAA) tournament."
Lewis scored 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting Friday in a game that featured Virginia's J.R. Reynolds hitting a fallaway baseline jumper with 0.4 seconds left to force overtime.
Maybe no player had a more effective jumper than Syracuse's Demetris Nichols, who was a standout virtually all week and may have significantly helped his draft status. A potential early second-round pick, Nichols was among the camp leaders with 13.7 points per game, and showed he clearly has NBA 3-point range - going 9-for-13 from beyond the arc while no other player hit more than four.
Another forward who impressed this week was Boston College's Jared Dudley, who displayed good range for a player known more for his energy and rebounding ability. He was having a disappointing final day until scoring seven points in the final two-plus minutes to help his team overcome a late double-digit deficit to win 95-93.
One of the losing players in that game was Dominic McGuire, and it may have been a losing week for the Fresno State standout. Like Cook, McGuire was widely projected to be a late first-round pick after declaring his eligibility for the NBA draft following his junior season with the Bulldogs.
McGuire, however, never got into the flow of any of his three games as the small forward finished the week with more turnovers (nine) than field goals made (eight). He averaged 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.
However, since scouts and management types won't reveal opinions about most players, not wanting to give information away to other teams, it is very difficult to estimate where McGuire and other camp participants will end up being selected.
"It's hard to tell and nobody will tell you because frankly they don't know," NBA director of scouting Marty Blake said. "If you like a guy, take him, don't worry about where you get him."
Among the other disappointments was another Donovan disciple in Taurean Green, who could have boosted his stock significantly in Orlando, considering many experts have called this draft weak on point guards. Instead, Green was far from the best point man this week, even getting outplayed by the other one on his own team, unheralded Jared Jordan of Marist.
Green did hit his share of 3s, though virtually all were off very open looks, but he had 11 assists compared to seven turnovers and often made poor decisions from the perimeter or when driving the lane. By comparison, Jordan had 17 assists with five turnovers and surprised many scouts, as did fellow point guards Ramon Sessions (Nevada) and DaShaun Wood (Wright State).
So it's hard to say Green did Donovan proud. Then again, his former coach wasn't too concerned about his former point guard on this day, and most people at the predraft camp knew there were bigger basketball doings in Orlando.
When asked who had a good day, Blake named a couple players before concluding, "I tell ya who impressed me, Billy Donovan. He got six years, $36 million. Charles Manson only got five years."