Long Beach’s Cotton Winds Up With SuperSonics


What began as a good week for the Cotton family officially went off the charts Wednesday, when the Denver Nuggets selected James Cotton, a Long Beach State guard, with the 33rd pick in the NBA draft.

That ended a day of frustration for Cotton, who hoped to be taken in the first round. When the Nuggets took Cotton with the fourth pick in the second round, a celebration erupted in his home.

Later in the day, Cotton was traded along with a 1998 second-round pick to the Seattle SuperSonics for guard Bobby Jackson, the 23rd pick overall.


“I’m just relieved it’s all over,” said Cotton, who watched the draft with his family and a few close friends. “It was real nerve-racking because I heard I was going to go in a certain range and that didn’t happen.”

On Monday, James’ younger brother, Schea, learned he had received a qualifying score on his Scholastic Assessment Test. The former Mater Dei standout is eligible to play at UCLA as a freshman next season.

“This has been an unbelievable week for our family,” said James Cotton Sr. “For Schea to pass his test and James to get drafted early in the second round . . . it’s all just great.”

Cotton, 6 feet 5 and 220 pounds, is a two-time All-Big West Conference selection. He averaged 23 points for Long Beach, which finished a disappointing 13-14 this season under first-year Coach Wayne Morgan. Cotton left Long Beach with a season of eligibility remaining partly because of his poor relationship with Morgan, several team sources said.

An excellent shooter and tireless worker, Cotton--the only Big West Conference player drafted--worked out for Cleveland, New York and Seattle.

Unlike players drafted in the first round, who become free agents after three seasons, second rounders can become free agents after one season.


“Long Beach had a disastrous season, so the fact that James was selected high in the second round says a lot about him,” said Cotton’s agent, Fred Slaughter. “For him to come through that is a big accomplishment.”