One day after being picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA draft, former Juneau-Douglas High School basketball star Carlos Boozer Jr. said he's excited about playing for the Cavs.
Boozer had been projected as a mid- to late-first round NBA pick after being named a third-team all-American last season as a junior center-power forward at Duke University. But the former Crimson Bear spent a frustrating Wednesday evening at his parents' house in Raleigh, N.C., watching as his draft stock slid as foreign players and young projects were chosen ahead of him.
Finally, with the 35th official pick, Cleveland made Boozer the third Alaskan to ever be selected in the draft. Boozer, who was actually the 34th player chosen because Minnesota lost its first-round pick due to NBA penalties, said initially he was disappointed to watch his slide but now he is upbeat about his opportunity.
"I feel great. I'm doing terrific. I'm really excited," Boozer said by phone Thursday afternoon. "It's a great opportunity, even though I was disappointed at first. I was anxious to see where I'd go after some of the foreign players were picked in the first round.
"But in the long run, it may be a blessing in disguise for me. I talked to (Cavs coach) John Lucas and (senior VP/general manager) Jim Paxson for awhile and I think I'll have an opportunity to contribute in Cleveland."
When he was selected, Boozer became the third former Alaska high school star to be drafted by an NBA team. The first was former Bartlett High School and University of Alaska Anchorage guard-forward Tony Turner, who was selected in the seventh round of the 1981 draft by the Detroit Pistons but never advanced past the Continental Basketball Association. The other Alaskan was former East Anchorage High School and Duke University guard Trajan Langdon, who was picked in the first round of the 1999 draft by Cleveland.
Boozer seems to be following one step behind Langdon in his career, as Alaska's two greatest high school players just miss connecting so they can finally be teammates. Langdon graduated from Duke just before Boozer entered as a freshman, and Monday he's expected to become an unrestricted free agent since the Cavaliers didn't renew his contract. Another Cavaliers player with Alaska ties, center Michael Doleac -- who attended middle school in Fairbanks -- also is expected to become a restricted free agent on Monday.
"I think he's a terrific ballplayer," Boozer said of Langdon. "We've both been at Duke and now we'll both have been at Cleveland. It is ironic, since we're both from Alaska."
When Boozer made his grand tour of NBA cities for tryouts, he visited about 16 teams. But Cleveland, which had the sixth pick in the draft, wasn't one of his stops. The Cavs went for a guard with their first pick, Memphis freshman Dajuan Wagner, and Paxson said they thought Boozer would be long gone before it was time for Cleveland's second pick.
"We were very happy to have Carlos fall to us," Paxson said in a post-draft press conference. "He was projected as a first-round pick and, while I'm sure he's disappointed to fall to the second round, we were glad he was there. He's used to winning and had a lot of success in a very good conference. We needed another big body up front and Carlos has a good chance to make our team and play some minutes."
Lucas also said Boozer has a chance to contribute, and, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, Lucas said if some of the Cavs' other frontcourt players "don't wake up, they've got a real challenge," from the 6-foot-9 Boozer, who averaged 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game last year at Duke.
Barring any trades -- Cleveland point guard Andre Miller has been mentioned in several trade rumors -- Boozer will be trying to find playing time in a crowded, but not exceptional, Cavaliers frontcourt. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was starting at center at the end of the season, with Chris Mihm as backup and 2001 NBA Draft high school project DaSagana Diop sidelined by an injury. At power forward, Tyrone Hill started 26 games before being injured and Jumaine Jones started 36 games with Mihm providing some backup minutes. Jones can also play small forward, backing up Lamond Murray.
At Duke, Boozer was forced to play center so he bulked up for the role. His weight was listed at 280 last year, even though his father, Carlos Sr., said Boozer's playing weight was closer to 265-270. Since he's projected to play power forward in the NBA, Boozer dropped some pounds for more mobility and now weighs about 255. Carlos Sr., who played in the same college backcourt with Lucas at Maryland before being injured, said his son has been working with a nutritionist to streamline his weight loss so he can maintain his power.
When Boozer slid in the draft, he lost several hundred thousand dollars in potential salary. First-round NBA picks are paid three-year guaranteed contracts based on a set scale, with the last pick of the first round earning about $2.1 million. Second-round picks (the NBA Draft only has two rounds) aren't guaranteed a salary and players have to make the roster to earn at least the NBA minimum salary of $350,000 a year.
Boozer said he hasn't really discussed contracts with the Cavaliers, but he expects his agents -- Arn Tellem and Rob Pelinka of SFX Basketball Group -- will get him the best deal possible. SFX represented 43 percent of the players selected in the 2001 draft and is one of the more prominent firms. Langdon also is an SFX client.
"I'm looking at a one- or two-year deal and then I'll be a free agent," Boozer said. "I expect my contract will be done pretty soon."
For the time being, Boozer said he will be in the Raleigh-Durham area while he works out and tries to finish some of the coursework he needs for his sociology degree. Boozer said he is four classes short of his degree and plans to graduate with his class in May 2003.
Boozer will head to Utah Summer League in mid-July and then return to North Carolina for his wedding to Cindy "CeCe" Blackwell in August, followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii -- which might include an appearance at the Pete Newell Big Man's Camp. NBA training camps open Oct. 1, and games start at the end of October.
The 2002-03 NBA schedule won't be released until the end of July, but a Cavaliers media relations representative said Cleveland will have two summer league games broadcast on ESPN -- on July 23 and July 25. He said last year Cleveland had one West Coast trip that featured stops in Seattle, Portland, Golden State and Sacramento, and one West Coast trip with two games in Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers), Phoenix and Utah. He expects Cleveland will have at least one nationally televised game this season, but won't know which one until the NBA schedule is released.
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