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Archive for Thursday, June 27, 2002

Williams touched by standing ovation for Gooden by players at his camp

June 27, 2002

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Sitting on the Horejsi Center basketball court just inches in front of 1,000 campers and a few feet away from a big-screen television, Roy Williams watched NBA commissioner David Stern step to the podium to announce the fourth pick in the NBA draft.

The phrase "the Memphis Grizzlies select Drew Gooden" brought a big smile to the Kansas University coach's face, two fist pumps into the air and a quick look at his campers, who rose en masse to give Gooden a thunderous standing ovation.

"It was really a special moment for me," Williams said after the 6-foot-10 Gooden became the third-highest drafted player in KU history behind Danny Manning (No. 1 overall in 1988) and Raef LaFrentz (No. 3 in 1998).

"That spontaneous reaction there  that was really nice. We'll definitely show it to Drew (on tape)."

The young campers' moods soured moments later, just after TNT analyst Craig Sager began an interview with Gooden from the site of Wednesday night's draft at New York's Madison Square Garden.

That's when a National Weather Service severe thunderstorm warning flashed onto the screen with a shrill sound in the background. The bulletin appeared for the rest of the Gooden interview.

"Needless to say that was not the best of timing we've ever seen," a grinning Williams told the campers.

"Needless to say we don't have any control over that," he added, referring to the weather.

Minutes later, the draft feed returned and the campers watched a few more draft selections before the television was turned off for good.

At that point, Williams met a mob of reporters and discussed the draft.

"I really did expect Drew to not go past four," Williams said.

Houston tapped Yao Ming No. 1; Chicago selected Jason Williams No. 2; and Golden State nabbed Mike Dunleavy No. 3.

"I felt three to four weeks ago that Golden State would take him. As time went down, I thought Golden State would take Dunleavy and thought Memphis would take Drew. I would have been really disappointed probably if they hadn't taken him."

Williams spoke to Memphis president of basketball operations Jerry West about 10 days ago. West and Williams are long-time friends. In fact, West twice tried to hire Williams when West worked for the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I talked to Jerry from South Carolina (Williams' beach home). We had a great conversation. I felt at that time, that's where Drew was going to go," said Williams, who also spoke to representatives from Houston, Chicago and Golden State this past month.

"I think like Jerry West said, they got a player with versatility, who can play more than one position. I think Drew will do some great things in Memphis."

Williams says he's anxious "to go watch him play. I'm looking forward to going back to Memphis. I love the ribs at (the restaurant) Rendezvous."

Gooden  he earned first-team All-America honors this past season at KU  is one of Williams' favorite players.

Just last week, Gooden spoke at Williams' camp.

"Drew told me he wanted someone to take a picture of the crowd tonight," Williams said. "He said it'd be fun to see the reaction of the fans. He said he wishes he could have been to both places. He said after he got his name called he wished he could magically appear here and thank his fans."

And thank his coach.

Gooden came a long way in his three years at KU.

"Everybody talks about Drew being a high school All-American. The fact of the matter is he was not a McDonald's All-American," Williams said. "He has really come a long, long way. That is something we're very proud of. Coming out of high school not being one of the quote-unquote top 25 guys in the country. He worked extremely hard. He took what we asked him to do. He bought into it more and more each and every year."

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Pollard approves: Former Jayhawk Scot Pollard of the Sacramento Kings was on hand for a pick-up game between former and current KU players Wednesday night.

"I'm happy he got picked," Pollard said. "In the NBA you just need an opportunity. He has guaranteed money ($7.511 million over three years) now. That's one of the things he doesn't have to worry about, making the team. He just goes out and plays now.

"Before Drew got cut off (by the weather announcement) he said he's in a good situation with Memphis. They have a lot of young guys there and Drew is another young guy. Hopefully they can build a solid foundation. But in the NBA you never know, by the end of the night he might be traded to Kalamazoo  wait, Kalamazoo doesn't have a team," Pollard grinned.

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Sore shoulder: KU senior-to-be Nick Collison didn't play in the game for the campers  which the current Jayhawks won, 80-50, behind a barrage of three-pointers by Kirk Hinrich.

Collison has a strained left shoulder, one he fell on twice during the past couple days.

"If it was the regular season I'd play," said Collison, who added he doesn't need X-rays. "I fell on it three days ago and tried to play the next day and fell on it again. I want to take a week off. It's no big problem. I've hurt it before."

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Camper has great time: Camper David Dancer of Dallas, Texas, focused a video camera on Williams prior to the Gooden selection.

"It's amazing to be here. It's real cool to see this at KU," said Dancer. "I wanted to see coach's reaction. He had a big grin on his face when Drew got picked. It's awesome to see how he reacted after all the work he put in with Gooden."

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