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Reaching for the next level

Boozer expected to be taken in mid-first round

Posted: Tuesday, June 25, 2002

It's Tuesday, so that means today's stop is Detroit on the Carlos Boozer Jr. tour of NBA cities.

Monday's stop was Salt Lake City, for his second visit with the Utah Jazz, and over the past week the former Juneau-Douglas High School star has also worked out with the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets.

But now the tour -- which father Carlos Boozer Sr. said has seen his son visit 16 or 17 teams over the past month or two -- can come to an end.

The two-round NBA Draft takes place at 3:30 p.m. (ADT) Wednesday in New York City (the draft will be televised on TNT, cable channel 39, starting at 3 p.m.). Carlos Jr. will be watching the draft at his parents' home in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, where his family moved after his first year at Duke University.

Boozer, a college center who will be a power forward in the NBA, is expected to be the third-ever Alaskan picked in the NBA Draft. Most draft gurus expect Boozer to be picked anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round, with most of the recent mock drafts posted on various Internet sites showing him being selected with the 17th through 23rd picks of the draft.

"We just have to wait and see where he goes," said Carlos Sr., who said even the Boozer family has had difficulty reaching Carlos Jr. the past month with all his travel (Carlos Jr. could not be reached by the Juneau Empire for this story). "We want him to be happy, and to have a chance to play and have a good mentor. I'm just happy I've got a kid going."

The Carlos Boozer Archive

"I think he's kind of getting tired of all the travel and he's ready for the draft," said Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball coach George Houston, who talked to his former star on Sunday. "I think he's ready to find out where he's going to go, so he can go to their summer league team to get ready for the season. I've got a poster in my office that says only one out of 500,000 kids will make the NBA, and this might be our one. He's just a special kid."

When he's picked, Boozer will join former East Anchorage High School and Duke guard Trajan Langdon, who was a first-round pick in 1999 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and former Bartlett High School and University of Alaska Anchorage guard Tony Turner, who was a seventh-round pick in the early 1980s by the Detroit Pistons but never advanced past the Continental Basketball Association. Current Cleveland Cavalier center-forward Michael Doleac briefly attended Monroe Catholic School in Fairbanks, but Doleac went to high school in the Lower 48 before attending the University of Utah.

This year's draft is considered one of the stronger ones in recent history, but after the first three picks things are about as clear as mud as to who will get selected by which team.

The Houston Rockets are expected to pick 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao Ming with the first pick of the draft, then two of Boozer's Duke teammates are expected to go next -- point guard Jay (formerly Jason) Williams to the Chicago Bulls with the second pick and forward Michael Dunleavy Jr. to the Golden State Warriors with the third pick (Dunleavy's father might also wind up as coach of the Warriors in a two-for-one deal).

This could be one of the strongest international drafts in history, with as many as 10 players from China, the Republic of Georgia, Italy, Brazil, Slovenia, Greece, Yugoslavia and Spain being considered possible first-round picks. After last year's draft had three high school players selected among the first four picks, this year's draft will likely see just one prep star chosen in the first round. The list of forwards is especially deep this year.

In his junior year at Duke, Boozer averaged 18.2 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds a game, setting an ACC record by making 66.5 percent of his shots. Boozer averaged 13.3 points a game as a sophomore and 12.5 as a freshman.

Over his college career Boozer did well in big games, earning the MVP trophies in the ACC Championships this year and the Preseason NIT tournament his sophomore season. When Duke won the NCAA title his sophomore year, Boozer came back from a broken foot to score 19 points in the semifinal game and post a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) in the title game against Arizona. When Boozer played for Team USA in the World Championship for Young Men last summer, Boozer led the team in scoring and rebounding as it won the gold medal, posting a single-game record 29 points in Team USA's semifinal victory over Argentina.

But the depth of this year's draft caused Boozer to slide into the second round when the initial batch of mock drafts were posted in May, even though Boozer was a third-team all-American.

Boozer's individual workouts with the various NBA teams brought his stock back to the first round. Most of the initial mock drafts were concerned about Boozer's ability to play facing the basket after three years as Duke's center, and at 6-foot-9 they thought Boozer was undersized to be a center in the NBA.

To ease his transition to power forward, Boozer, who was listed at 280 pounds last year even though he played most of the season at 265, dropped weight.

"He's had a lot of good workouts with the NBA teams, and word gets out," Houston said. "He's dropped to 255 (pounds) now, and he said he's quicker and more explosive than ever."

The Utah Jazz, who have the 19th pick in the draft and are looking for a possible replacement for power forward Karl Malone, said they were impressed with Boozer's workout on Monday. At least four mock drafts posted this week had the Jazz picking Boozer.

"He had a good workout, he showed his maturity," said Kevin O'Connor, the vice president of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz. "He lost weight and streamlined his game. He showed he could shoot facing up to the basket, and he didn't have the opportunity to do that at Duke. He performed well and he's on our radar screen."

Houston said Boozer's agents, Arn Tellem and Rob Pelinka of SFX Basketball Group, told Boozer that he can expect to be picked anywhere between the 14th pick and the 20th pick of the draft. Tellem's SFX group represented 43 percent of the players selected in last year's draft, and it represents Langdon, who is a free agent after three years with the Cavs.

That could lead to an interesting situation if the Jazz pick Boozer, Houston said. Utah is looking to possibly bring Langdon in to replace John Starks at shooting guard, and Boozer never got to play with Langdon since Langdon graduated from Duke during Boozer's senior year at JDHS. Malone and point guard John Stockton also have Alaska ties, with Malone owning property on the Kenai Peninsula and Stockton's wife being from Fairbanks.

"Carlos met Karl Malone this time, and Malone had just gotten back from a fishing trip to Alaska," Houston said. "He got to go to Malone's $11 million house. He really enjoyed the lifestyle and pace in Utah."

But there are a number of teams that have expressed interest in Boozer, and a draft-day trade could shake things up throughout the draft. Besides the five teams he visited this week, Carlos Sr. said his son has also worked out with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns, the Atlanta Hawks, the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks and the Sacramento Kings, plus he had an interview but no workout with the Chicago Bulls.

"You know what drives me crazy is I think Carlos is a better player than a lot of these teams think he is," Carlos Boozer Sr. said. "Carlos can shoot the 3 (3-pointer). Everybody likes the way he's worked out, but we have to wait and see. I just want Carlos to be happy."

Charles Bingham can be reached at cbingham@juneauempire.com.



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