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Who's Laughing Now? Underrated in the 2002 draft and embarrassed in last year's rookie game, Carlos Boozer is turning heads

Not athletic? Too short? With each of his 10 dunks in the
All-Star Rookie Challenge last Friday at the Staples Center,
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Carlos Boozer rebutted the knocks pro
scouts had laid on him, knocks that caused him to slip to the
second round of the 2002 draft as the 35th pick overall. Boozer
finished with 25 points and five rebounds while helping game MVP
Amare Stoudemire (36 points, 11 rebounds) lead the NBA Sophomores
to a 142-118 victory over the Rookies, who were led by Boozer's
teammate in Cleveland, LeBron James. Boozer's performance also
made amends for his embarrassment in last year's rookie game,
when Jason Richardson bounced a ball off Boozer's head, caught it
and sank a three-pointer. Had Boozer ever dunked so much in a
game? "Oh, yeah," he said. "In high school. When I was playing
against Eskimos."

Boozer, who was raised in Juneau, Alaska, played on Duke's
championship team in 2000 and helped the Blue Devils reach the
Sweet 16 the following season. As a 6'9", 275-pound center he
scored 1,506 points over three seasons and ranks first alltime in
field goal percentage at Duke, but NBA scouts knew he was too
small to play center in the NBA, and most thought he lacked the
athleticism, hops and versatility to excel at power forward.
Cavaliers G.M. Jim Paxson thought otherwise, signing him to a
three-year contract. Boozer then spent the next four months
slimming down to his current 258 pounds and extending his
shooting range to complement his brawny low-post game.

Boozer, who is 22, has averaged 14.6 points and 11.0 rebounds
this season, making him one of just seven NBA players averaging a
double double. The next step in his rapid ascent would be to help
James get Cleveland into the playoffs for the first time in six
years. The Cavaliers (20-33) enter the final two months trailing
No. 8 seed Boston by just 2 1/2 games.