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Fate in NBA Draft still uncertain for Bell-Jeff’s Douglas

Jim Riggio

Leading the NCAA in scoring in men’s basketball has traditionally

been a guarantee that a player will get chosen in the NBA Draft.

But that was the way it used to be.

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In the 2003 selection, there is no guarantee former Bellarmine-

Jefferson High star Ruben Douglas will be among the 58 players

selected in Thursday’s draft.

With a number of players turning pro out of a high school, and the

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increase of foreign players making themselves eligible, the journey

to the NBA has become more difficult.

This past season, the 6-foot-4 Douglas led all NCAA Division I

men’s players, averaging 28 points a game. He shot 39.7% from the

field for the 10-18 Lobos, who had only one other player who averaged

in double figures.

Douglas, who was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the

Year, averaged 32.1 points a game in conference against the likes of

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UNLV, Utah, BYU, Wyoming and San Diego State. He also shot 45.7% from

three-point range in conference play.

Despite his statistics and accolades, there have been questions

about whether Douglas has what it takes to make it in the NBA. There

have also been questions posed to Douglas’ coaches -- Bell-Jeff’s Eli

Essa and New Mexico’s Ritchie McKay.

One of the negatives about Douglas is that although he has proven

to be a potent scorer, there are questions about his ability to play

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defense.

“I’ve had about four NBA teams contact me in the past year to ask

about his character,” Essa said of his former star who began his

college career at the University of Arizona. “I think he’s had this

stigma that has followed him since he left Arizona.”

Both Essa and McKay are frustrated that scouts and draft analysts

aren’t giving Douglas the respect they feel he deserves.

“The shocking thing to me is that some have questioned his

character,” McKay said. “I’m not sure if he’ll be drafted or not.”

Since Douglas’ relationship with famed Arizona Coach Lute Olson

ended with Douglas transferring more than three years ago, Essa said

some people have not forgiven him for the decision.

“A lot of the game is politics, and a lot is pulling for your

favorite coach,” Essa said.

Both of his former coaches agree Douglas will wear an NBA uniform,

they just aren’t sure when.

“Ruben is without question an NBA talent. Over the course of time,

Ruben will prove he belongs at that level,” McKay said. “The longer

a coach has him on their team, the more they’ll appreciate him.”

With Douglas almost certain not to be drafted in the first round,

Essa and McKay think it would be better if he isn’t drafted at all,

so he can sign as a free agent.

“If you get drafted in the second round, you may get drafted by a

team that may not necessarily have a spot for you,” Essa said. “If

you don’t get drafted, you can pick and choose what you feel is best

for you.”

There were reports that Douglas didn’t do well in the NBA

pre-draft camp in Chicago earlier this month, and chose not to attend

another NBA draft camp in Portsmouth, Va.

However, Douglas has had private workouts with a number of NBA

teams and has done better in the those workouts.

“He didn’t shoot well at the camp, but in 30-something games [in

college] he shot very well,” Essa said. “For those three days [in

Chicago], he shot about what Allen Iverson shoots, and I wonder what

[the scouts] think about Iverson.”

Essa noted that some players like free agent Golden State Warrior

guard Gilbert Arenas and Cleveland forward Carlos Boozer were

second-round picks the past two years.

He also pointed out that San Antonio forward Bruce Bowen -- who

played a key role for newly crowned NBA champion San Antonio Spurs --

was never drafted out of Cal State Fullerton.

“I think we’re hoping Ruben is drafted,” McKay said. “He’s worked

too hard. He’s got a lot more basketball ahead and he’ll have to

continue to prove himself because this is the NBA.”

Douglas has proven himself at every level he has played.

A 1998 graduate, Douglas was the CIF Southern Section Division IV

Player of the Year. He led the state in scoring with a 34.6 average

and tallied 1,073 points his senior season to lead the Guards (18-13)

to the division semifinals.


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