MILWAUKEE (AP) -Half a world away, Joe Alexander decided he was going to play in the NBA. After all, his older brothers were good basketball players, so they'd probably be there, too.
Alexander was 10 years old, living in Beijing because of his father's work and just a fifth-grader. His brothers' pro dreams changed into business careers, but 11 years later, Alexander was the top pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft, selected No. 8 overall on Thursday night.
``This has been a lifelong dream of mine. Well, obviously, I didn't know much about life at the time,'' he said Friday in his introduction in Milwaukee. ``All I knew was my older brothers were really good at basketball and the highest level of ball was the NBA. And I figured they were going to be there so I wanted to be better than them. It was simple as that.''
That's been Alexander's biggest asset so far. He's willing to work harder than anyone he's faced. That's what endeared him to West Virginia coach Bob Huggins despite the fact the two only spent one season together.
Huggins saw Alexander's potential immediately and told the 6-foot-8 forward he would play in the NBA one day.
``He said that to me after our first individual workout. I was just throwing down a lot of dunks, not just by myself, but on my teammates and I think he saw that I was really passionate about the game, I wasn't just going through the motions,'' Alexander said. ``I hope that's what he saw.''
New Bucks general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles brought Alexander in twice and saw the same thing as they homed in on using the lottery pick on Alexander.
Huggins' influence is apparent on Alexander, who acknowledged that he likes being pushed every day in an effort to be better. It also made his decision much tougher to enter the NBA early instead of returning for his senior season at West Virginia.
``I think anyone who wants to be good at basketball likes to be challenged, and that's what I really thrived on under coach Huggins,'' Alexander said. ``There were a lot of ups and a lot of downs, probably more downs than ups in that process. But the real thing that I enjoy is in the end in spite of all those downs, you come out a better player, so that's why you're able to enjoy it. Despite the yelling and all the running, despite all that, you still come out a better player.''
Alexander said Huggins told him Skiles would be similarly demanding in his no-nonsense approach.
``I always feel like I'm supposed to apologize for that,'' Skiles said. ``There's 'tough and a little bit crazy' and then there's 'tough and fair' and hopefully I'm the latter.''
Skiles will have an evolving roster to work with. Along with Alexander, the Bucks selected forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute with the 37th pick and traded for Richard Jefferson.
To get Jefferson, the Bucks gave up last year's No. 6 overall pick Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. The 7-foot Chinese power forward didn't want to come to Milwaukee and his handlers didn't allow the Bucks to watch him when they held a workout in Los Angeles before last year's draft.
Alexander, who also speaks Mandarin after spending time in Taiwan and China growing up, took a much different approach than Yi.
``In the draft process, just like teams eliminate players that they don't want, players can eliminate teams that they don't want and you don't go visit a team initially if you don't want to be there and you certainly don't go back and visit a team again if you don't want to be there,'' Alexander said. ``I think that's a strong indication of how I felt about this place.''
Trainer Joe Abunassar, who had six first-round picks this year work out with him including Alexander, said the 21-year-old forward was quiet and intense in his six-week program.
``He's a fierce worker, he's an animal in the gym, he loves to lift, he loves to work. He definitely maximizes his natural ability,'' Abunassar said. ``Joe's got a tremendous natural ability.''
It's athleticism that the Bucks will need.
``My opinion is our team improved significantly,'' Skiles said. ``I'm really comfortable with the direction we're heading in.''
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