Tornadoes are rare in Phoenix, but a Cyclone swept through last
week's Nike Desert Classic, one of the NBA's predraft scouting
camps. The storm was 6'11" Kelvin Cato, a former Iowa State
center, who stole the show in front of dozens of NBA G.M.'s and
The five-day event brings together 42 college seniors to play
intense, man-to-man hoops under the eyes of the NBA's talent
evaluators. Most projected top picks stay home rather than risk
lowering their stock, so the field is loaded with good
players--Kansas's Jacque Vaughn and Tulsa's Shea Seals were
among this year's crop--looking to move up to mid-first-round
Cato seems to have done just that. He's a raw talent who never
played high school basketball while growing up in Georgia
because he never lived in one place long enough to meet state
residency requirements. But in Phoenix he swatted shots, played
defense like a madman and showed an astounding vertical leap.
"He just about reaches the top of the backboard when he jumps,"
says Rockets exec Carroll Dawson.
Cato wasn't a complete unknown. He helped carry Iowa State to a
22-9 record in 1996-97 and is the school's career leader in
blocked shots. "He's limited offensively, but he's athletic and
he competes hard," says Nets G.M. John Nash. "And the fact he
didn't play high school ball might mean he has a greater
upside." Cleveland, Milwaukee and Phoenix are among the clubs
that could be tempted by that potential.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Iowa State's high-flying Cato saw his stock soar at the Desert Classic. [Kelvin Cato in game]