Fast-blooming sophomore Stromile Swift of LSU is sure to rise
high in the lottery
Stromile Swift had passed all the jumping tests with the greatest
of ease. Having exhausted their scientific measures, the
Grizzlies, who hold the No. 2 pick in the June 28 draft, asked
Swift simply to leap as high as he could. "He touched a good foot
above the [backboard] square," a team official says with a
chuckle. "He looks like he may be an All-Star."
Swift is regarded by scouts as the best athlete coming out: a
6'10", 220-pound sophomore power forward from LSU who led the SEC
in blocks (2.79 per game), was third in the conference in scoring
(16.2 points) and ranked fourth nationally in field goal shooting
(60.8%). Still, he has yet to hire an agent, retaining the option
of coming back to Baton Rouge if he isn't sure to be a top five
pick. (Underclassmen who haven't signed with an agent may
withdraw from the draft by June 21 without sacrificing their
eligibility.) On June 3, a few hours before Swift and his cousin
Joe Jones were to fly to a workout for the Nets, LSU assistant
Butch Pierre visited Swift's 8 a.m. extra-credit speech class and
found him there, taking notes. "He postponed most of his NBA
workouts until after that class was done," LSU coach John Brady
says. "He went three hours a day, every morning, and missed just
one class." That absence occurred on the second day of his
workout in New Jersey.
Swift didn't start playing organized basketball in his hometown
of Shreveport, La., until the eighth grade, when he was 6'3". "He
was shy and really self-conscious about his height," says Fair
Park High assistant Ken Prude. "Nobody thought he could play. He
heard people say, 'You're too tall to be so sorry.'" Prude worked
to make him feel less nervous in front of big crowds. "If he did
something funny at practice I would laugh," Prude says. "I wanted
him to know it's not a problem to be laughing at yourself."
"The character trait in Stromile that is going to make him a very
good player is his sense of humility," Brady says. Tattooed on
Swift's left shoulder is an image of Jesus holding a basketball,
framed by the words A GIFT FROM GOD. "That's what my mom has
always told me about my talent," he says.
Swift was so coveted coming out of high school that Brady offered
to play one of LSU's home games 200 miles up the road in
Shreveport if Swift would sign with the school. Even then, Brady
worried that Swift's initial failure to meet the NCAA academic
standards would drive him to the NBA. "He must have taken that
ACT test a half-dozen times at least," Prude says. But Swift knew
that he needed to attend college. "I really wanted to go to
Michigan," he says, settling instead on LSU because he could live
in Baton Rouge with Jones, an electrician, until he qualified
midway through his freshman year.
At LSU, Swift was assigned to guard the lowest-scoring frontcourt
player, which allowed him to roam the paint like a free safety
for many of his 130 blocks in just 50 games, a total second only
to Shaquille O'Neal's in school history. In the low post Swift
will probably need help guarding the burlier NBA power forwards,
and Brady doubts that Swift is ready to guard the quicker small
forwards on the perimeter. His graceful, explosive athleticism
will have to carry him until he gains muscle and experience.
Swift came away from his June 5 workout with Vancouver convinced
that it was seriously considering him as its selection. It makes
sense: The Grizzlies want to replace power forward Othella
Harrington, who's unhappy in Vancouver, and new team president
Dick Versace has a four-year rebuilding plan, which means he can
afford to be patient. "I looked at all the magazines and Stromile
wasn't mentioned on any of the all-SEC lists or All-America teams
before last season," Brady says. "Then you look at where he ended
up--co-MVP of the SEC, second team All-America. As fast as he
developed here, he can develop in the NBA. With the right team he
can become one of the top 15 to 25 players in two years."
The Draft's Big Sleeper
Return of the Lost Continent
Searching for an anti-Shaq weapon? Scouts, coaches and general
managers from at least 20 NBA teams at the predraft camp in
Chicago this month hoped they had found one as they looked up
(and up) at Brad Millard, a 7'3", 360-pound behemoth from tiny
St. Mary's in Moraga, Calif. Millard was nicknamed Big Continent
by big-man coach Pete Newell--but that was before Millard suffered
a series of foot injuries that limited him to 16 games over the
past three seasons. "So then I started calling him Atlantis,"
says St. Mary's coach Dave Bollwinkel, "because for the last
three years he's been the lost continent."
Millard was surprisingly nimble during the individual workout he
held at a private health club in Chicago. After a couple of trips
up and down the court he was short of breath, but he exhibited a
smooth stroke from 15 feet. All this despite his footwear:
low-cut Reebok running shoes. "I got these out of a catalog from
a company in Atlanta two months ago," said Millard, 23. "These
are the only pair of shoes I can wear. If you see me walking down
the street tomorrow, I'll be in these shoes."
Big Continent's big feet--size 23 EEEE--have been his biggest
problem. After averaging 12.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 31 games
as a sophomore, Millard suffered a broken metatarsal bone in his
left foot the following October and was sidelined for the season.
A year later he missed all but three games after breaking the
navicular bone in the same foot, and last season an edema around
the navicular in his right foot cost him his final 17 games.
Millard blames his woes on the (relatively) tiny size-22 shoes he
had to wear. "If you were a size 12 and you had to play in a 10,
your feet would be pretty messed up too," says Millard's agent,
Bill Duffy. "Brad's father says Brad hasn't had a comfortable
pair of shoes since he was 17 years old."
"His feet are structurally sound," says Arthur Ting, team
physician of the San Jose Sharks, who had performed surgery on
Joe Montana and Tiger Woods before encountering Millard's
Sasquatchian feet. "His shoes definitely contributed to his
injuries. To fix his metatarsal we had to use fragment screws
three times the size of normal screws."
Other players on the cusp of their NBA dream talk of buying
themselves a huge house or a fleet of luxury cars. "Once I'm in
the league," says Millard, gazing off to the horizon, "I'll take
some of that money and make myself some shoes."
New Jersey's New Boss
Thorn Is Bullish On the Nets
Since taking over as Nets president on June 2, Rod Thorn has
watched the team's foundation crumble. Because of injuries,
center Jayson Williams and shooting guard Kerry Kittles may never
play again. Still, Thorn has no regrets about leaving his job as
the NBA's deputy commissioner and chief operating officer. "I was
aware of these things," Thorn says, "and I'm still very
As general manager of the Bulls from May 1978 until March '85,
Thorn endured all the headaches endemic to running a third-rate
club--selfish players, drug problems and other public scandals,
the firing of several coaches. Then, nine months before the end,
Thorn made the decision that would alter the NBA's landscape:
With the third pick, he drafted Michael Jordan.
Thorn's experiences in Chicago, bad and good, have made a patient
man of him. Now he has the No. 1 choice, and though no one
remotely Jordan-like is in the draft, he doesn't want to trade
the choice for short-term help. "If we feel strongly about a
player at Number 1, we'll stay there and take him," Thorn says.
He's also in no hurry to bring in a coach before the draft. Says
a rival general manager and friend of Thorn's, "I asked him who
he's going to hire, and he said he has no idea. He's going to
take his time."
For profiles of the entire NBA draft class, plus more news from
Marty Burns, go to cnnsi.com/basketball.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER
COLOR PHOTO: GERRY GROPP Dogged by his size 23-EEEE feet, the 7'3" Millard yearns to play again--and in shoes that fit.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER
Around The Rim
Lamar Odom has let the Clippers know that he wouldn't mind
seeing them draft Hofstra senior Speedy Claxton with the No. 18
pick, Los Angeles's second choice. Odom and Claxton were
teammates at Christ the King High in Queens, N.Y.; when Claxton,
who is 1 1/2 years older, went to college, Odom would spend
weekends in his dorm room. If L.A. would rather not take
Claxton, it could pick St. John's sophomore Erick Barkley, who
replaced Claxton as Christ the King's point guard and who is
also close to Odom. The Clippers, who are looking for a point
guard anyway, won't do itself any harm by making Odom feel
The biggest surprise at the predraft camp in Chicago was
Michigan freshman Jamal Crawford, who played only 17 games this
season because he accepted money from a Seattle businessman
while in high school, and was suspended by the NCAA. Scouts see
the 6'5" Crawford as the one big point guard in the draft. "He
might have played his way into the lottery," says one Western
When Michael Jordan said he would take 18-year-old Darius Miles
if he had the No. 1 pick, he did so from personal experience.
Miles played last summer at Jordan's camp in Santa Barbara,
Calif. "He always picked me on his team," Miles says. "We played
against college players, and Michael was talking noise at
them--'You're not going to let the high school players beat
you.' We won mostly all the games."
Will the ever-troubled Nets trade the No. 1 pick? How high will
high school phenom Darius Miles (above) go? Pending changes in
the order, here is how the June 28 draft is shaping up.
1 NETS Kenyon Martin PF, 6'10", 234 Cincinnati/Sr.
Surest thing in the draft. Will help replace Jayson Williams, who may never play because of broken right leg.
2 GRIZZLIES Stromile Swift PF, 6'10", 220 LSU/Soph.
With Swift and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Vancouver could have the makings of a tremendous frontcourt.
3 CLIPPERS Marcus Fizer PF, 6'9", 262 Iowa State/Jr. Dependable low-post scorer with superior shooting range, he hit
58.2% of his shots last season.
4 BULLS Darius Miles SF, 6'9", 202 East St. Louis (Ill.)High G.M. Jerry Krause has secretly lusted after Miles, perhaps the most exciting player in the draft.
5 MAGIC Chris Mihm C, 7'0", 265 Texas/Jr.
Some doubt his toughness; will have something to prove after
slipping to No. 5.
6 HAWKS Courtney Alexander SG, 6'6", 205 Fresno State/Sr. Atlanta needs an athletic scorer after experiment with Isaiah Rider blew up last year.
7 BULLS Joel Przybilla C, 7'1", 243 Minnesota/Soph.
With this shot blocker in the fold, all Chicago needs is Tracy McGrady to be back in business.
8 CAVALIERS Iakovos Tsakalidis C, 7'3", 283 AEK(Greece) Cleveland will jump at Big Jake, 21, if it's clear by
draft day that he's not contractually bound to AEK.
9 ROCKETS Olumide Oyedeji PF, 6'10", 240 DJK Wurzburg(Germany) A 20-year-old rebounding whiz gets a chance to play alongside fellow Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon.
10 MAGIC DerMarr Johnson SG, 6'9", 200 Cincinnati/Fr.
If it fails to land McGrady, Orlando will need an athletic guard, and
Johnson's size is a plus.
11 CELTICS Etan Thomas PF, 6'10", 260 Syracuse/Sr.
Rick Pitino hopes he has finally landed a big-time interior defender and shot blocker.
12 MAVERICKS Jerome Moiso PF, 7'0", 232 UCLA/Soph.
Don Nelson must light a fire under this occasionally passive Parisian; will give Dallas four foreign players.
13 MAGIC Mike Miller SF, 6'9", 211 Florida/Soph.
With flashy Miller still available, Orlando chooses not to go for a backup point guard.
14 PISTONS Jamal Crawford PG, 6'5", 175 Michigan/Fr.
Team president Joe Dumars takes a raw Wolverine over Michigan State's
15 BUCKS Morris Peterson SF, 6'7", 218 Michigan State/Sr. Bucks go for a "veteran" collegian with three-point range from reigning
16 KINGS Quentin Richardson SG, 6'6", 223 DePaul/Soph.
Another strong offensive option (17.9 ppg in two college seasons) for
17 SONICS Mamadou N'Diaye C, 7'0", 246 Auburn/Sr.
Durable and explosive, this Senegalese is Auburn's alltime top shot blocker (241).
18 CLIPPERS Erick Barkley PG, 6'1", 177 St. John's/Soph. Barkley is reunited with former high school teammate Lamar Odom.
19 HORNETS Chris Carrawell SG, 6'6", 221 Duke/Sr.
Solid team player (16.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.2 apg as senior) helps replace the late Bobby Phills.
20 76ERS Marko Jaric SG, 6'7", 198 Fortitudo Bologna
Not a huge surprise: Skilled, smart, 21-year-old Serb played well in Chicago predraft camp.
21 RAPTORS Keyon Dooling PG, 6'3", 184 Missouri/Soph.
Fills a need at point guard while providing decent scoring ability (15.3
ppg in 1999-2000).
22 KNICKS Donnell Harvey PF, 6'8", 220 Florida/Fr.
Should have stayed in school, but New York bets he will eventually become an inside force.
23 JAZZ Mateen Cleaves PG, 6'3", 210 Michigan State/Sr.
Too good to be true? Utah lands heady successor to John Stockton, who will retire after this season.
24 BULLS Speedy Claxton PG, 5'11", 166 Hofstra/Sr.
His nickname is no joke: If his jumper improves, Chicago will
have found its playmaker.
25 SUNS Jason Collier C, 7'0", 260 Georgia Tech/Sr.
Averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds after escaping from Bob Knight in 1998.
26 JAZZ Hidayet Turkoglu SF, 6'8", 202 Efes Pilsen(Turkey) Fantastic Turkish shooter could be a steal if he decides not to
withdraw from the draft.
27 PACERS Soumaila Samake C, 7'1", 224 Cincinnati Stuff/IBL Native of Mali, played in Slovenia for three seasons; led IBL in blocks
last year (2.7 per game).
28 BLAZERS Brad Millard C, 7'3", 360 St. Mary's/Sr.
Portland gambles that bad feet will heal enough to fill Arvydas Sabonis's shoes in two years.
29 LAKERS DeShawn Stevenson SG, 6'5", 210 Washington Union High Senior from Fresno almost attended Kansas; L.A. happy to
school him for next three or four years.