ORLANDO (STATS) - A pair of former Big East standouts may have shown why some players choose to be a part of the NBA predraft camp and why others stay away from it - even if they do give up the chance to play in front of Michael Jordan.
Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray and Syracuse's Demetris Nichols are among the top seniors playing in Orlando this week, but Wednesday proved to have very different results for the two first-team All-Big East selections, who played under the vigilant eye of Jordan and a handful of other NBA legends at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
With a rule change that prevented teams from holding private workouts until camp ended, this year's version is expected to hold added significance, and many of the league's biggest names were out to discover new talent on the first full day.
Of course, none of those names are bigger than Jordan, who is in Orlando checking out who he could potentially scoop up with Charlotte's second pick of the draft at No. 22. First the Bobcats will pick eighth overall, but all expected lottery picks have bypassed the camp, save for a physical on Thursday.
Other top NBA personnel on hand for Wednesday's morning session included Larry Bird, Chris Mullin and even Jerry West, whose days as Memphis general manager will come to an end July 1.
Among the coaches in attendance was Avery Johnson, who is taking a long look at the youngsters competing in Orlando because he could very well select one of them. Dallas owns the fourth pick in the second round.
?It's a pretty strong draft. I think there are a solid 30 guys in this draft, and that says a lot,? Johnson said. ?Last year, we didn't have 30 guys. This year, I think it's a much deeper draft, it's just a matter of how they're going to respond and how they transfer into the NBA.?
One of those players in question is Gray. In college, he was often able to simply overwhelm opponents, particularly on the glass, due to his massive frame. He's easily the biggest player at the camp at 7-feet, 270 pounds.
That size is a big reason some considered Gray a potential top-20 pick entering this week. However, having an NBA-type body does not necessarily equate to having an NBA-type game.
One scout from a Western Conference team believed Gray would only be worth a second-round pick, and he didn't do much to disprove that on Wednesday.
In a full-court practice against players from his own team - there are six squads at the camp - Gray was dominated by unheralded Coleman Collins, an undersized power forward from Virginia Tech who at 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds has a major physical disadvantage against the former Pitt star.
Collins had his shot working and did not look the least bit tentative against Gray, who was being outworked at both ends of the floor and could not find his shot.
Things got a little better during the scrimmage when he didn't have to worry about Collins - who scored a camp-high 22 in his game - but Gray still was poor defensively and seemed to get the bulk of his 15 points (seven at the foul line) due to his size advantage, a dominating edge he won't always have in the NBA.
When asked if he felt the need to dominate, considering he is one of a small group of players at the camp with first-round potential, Gray admitted to feeling some extra pressure.
?Maybe a little bit, you definitely think about it,? Gray said. ?You just wanna go out there and show teams there's a lot of positives to your game and I think I did that. Hopefully, I'll continue to do that.?
Nichols is even more of a wild card, with a small chance to sneak into the first round and a strong possibility he could go undrafted. But a standout effort in the Wednesday morning scrimmage would seem to suggest he'll not only be drafted, but had the potential to be a top-40 pick.
½ minutes. Nichols showed he has the range to hit NBA 3s with regularity, making all three he attempted in the first half and going 4-of-5 for the game en route to his 18 points.
Though his defense has come into question, Nichols was quick to defend it, and he showed Wednesday he will work hard on that end of the floor. He also displayed some decent rebounding and passing ability, leaving last season's Big East scoring leader (18.9 ppg) very happy about his performance.
?I feel real, real confident. This is the last camp, you know, a lot of scouts here. You've just got to show them you're a good person, that you play hard and the rest will come. I just go out there and play hard and do what I do best."

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