NCAA BK

BURLISON: Bogans, Gardner return older, wiser

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 

CHICAGO

They came here two years ago with visions of four days of sparkling on-court performances that would be followed with the sounds of their names being called on national television by David Stern a few weeks later. This week, and are back in the Solheim Center gymnasium at the Moody Bible Institute, a little older and certainly a little wiser. But they've got the same ultimate goal, anyway: They just want to impress at least one of the 29 scouting brain trusts here representing the NBA franchises that they are worth using a draft pick on, be it of the first- or the second-round variety. Two years ago, in the wake of outstanding sophomore seasons at and Arizona, respectively, they came to the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp here with grandiose hopes. But their performances here, and the reaction of the NBA types who evaluated those efforts over four days, is why they played two more seasons for their respective Wildcats. Not only was it quite apparent during their first stab at this event that they had no shot of getting chosen in the first round, most scouts felt they would be blanked in the second round, too. The minds are a little clearer now. There are no pressures from fans and friends at and Arizona, urging them to come back to school and postpone their NBA aspirations; they've had their four seasons of college eligibility apiece. All the focus is getting into the NBA now. And what happens in the Solheim Center gym this week is going to play a big part into making that a reality for each. "I'm much better prepared for this, mentally and physically, than I was two years ago," the 6-foot-4 Bogans said. "I was young and was out of shape. Now I had an idea of what to expect and what to do when I got here. I'm not trying to do too much. I'm just staying focused." Bogans struggled with his jump shot the entire week here two years ago. And that's putting it mildly. And players who aspire to play shooting guard in the NBA don't earn paychecks if they struggle with their jump shots here. After discovering he might not get drafted if he didn't pull his name from the draft pool, Bogans returned to Lexington and had a disappointing junior season that some attributed to, at least partly, his post-Chicago funk. But he was one of the driving forces behind 's 2002-3 season that ended when the Wildcats were upset in the Midwest Region final by . He still isn't projected as a first-round pick by NBA types. But, if the first two days of camp are any indication, his chances of being picked somewhere in the draft have improved appreciably. He was the high scorer (19 points) during the three camp games, hitting eight of 10 shots including all three of his 3-pointers. The irony wasn't lost on him. "Yeah, that's for sure," he said, smiling Wednesday, when it was suggested that he had hit more jump shots (six) in the just concluded game than he had his entire week here in 2001. There are six college underclassmen here who have hung onto their option of pulling their name out of the draft and returning to college. Bogans know that some of them may be toiling through the same deer-in-headlights experience this week that he remembers so well from two years ago. Would they have listened to any advice he had for them beforehand? Uh ... "They're young, just like I was," he said. "I went through it and now they're going through it. It's something you've got to learn for yourself." The 5-10 Gardner, one of the very few four-year starters Lute Olson has coached, said that he, too, is feeling much more relaxed this week than he was two years ago, even with all that is at stake. He, too, chalks it up to a couple of years' worth of wisdom and his 2001 Chicago experience. "Two years ago, I was thinking about it (what the scouts where thinking of him) too much," he said Wednesday. "I was calling people all the time, asking 'where do I stand?' and 'how am I working out?'
NBA Draft
:
Everybody knows LeBron James is going first, but how will the rest of the draft shape up? We want to see your picks.
"Now, I'm just letting my agent deal with that." Like Bogans, he struggled with his jump shot the first time around. In fact, one of the criticisms of scouts was that he was shooting too much. Now, he believes he has a much better handle on what the NBA wants to see out of him. "That comes with maturity," he said. "I understand what is the right pass to make, the tempo you need to play at , when to slow the ball down or look for quicker shots." He knows what some of those underclassmen here are going through, too. "It's hard," he said. "You have so many people you want you to go back to college, and then you have people you know who are on you about going pro. It's tough. You have to know who the people are who really do want what's best for you."

Camp notes:

  • Arizona forward (14 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and zero turnovers) had the most impressive stat line of Wednesday. It doesn't come as a surprise to Pac-10 coaches but Walton is one of the four or five best passers in camp.
  • Jerome Beasley, a 6-9 forward from the University of North Dakota by way of Midland College (Texas) and Moreno Valley (Calif.), looks like a player whose stock is continuing to climb after a strong performance during the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational in April. He impressed with his open-court passing Wednesday night and has more than ample quickness for a 237-pounder. What does he need to do this week to enhance his hopes of getting into the first round on June 26? "Just play hard, work on my defense and tighten up a few things," he said. Yep. That simple.
  • sophomore forward struggled Wednesday night (five points, two rebounds and three turnovers) but seems likely to remain in the draft pool.
  • James Lang (Birmingham, Ala.), the only high school player in the camp, was listed at 6-10 or 6-11 all season. But the NBA tape measure doesn't lie. Players were measured and weighed, without shoes, Tuesday and Wednesday. The tale of the tape (and scale) for Lang: 6-8 ½ and 316 pounds. He's wearing the gaudiest sneakers (bright yellow adidas) in the camp and, as could be anticipated, looks about as raw as raw can be, although he racked up some decent numbers (15 points and six rebounds) Wednesday night.
  • Other than , some of the Southeast Conference players here (Marquis Daniels of Auburn, Ron Slay of Tennessee, Ron Dupree of and of ) have struggled with their jump shots. Another exception is Florida's 6-9 (six of nine from the field Wednesday night). Zimmerman (measured at 6-1) continues to look like the best athlete here, even if his decision making from the point hasn't been exactly polished. He had the two most impressive dunks of the evening games Wednesday.
  • (UCLA), (Oklahoma), (Utah), (Miami), (BYU) and (Arizona) were seniors who attracted a nice scouts' "buzz" Wednesday and seem certain to drafted. The 6-7 Jones, who had a disappointing senior season, shot the ball from the perimeter as consistently well as anyone in camp Tuesday and Wednesday. Senior writer covers college basketball for FOXSports.com and can be reached at his e-mail address: fburlison@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Arizona, UCLA, North Carolina State, LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Florida, Drake, Oklahoma, Utah, Brigham Young

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