- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

RICHMOND — One glimpse at Peter John Ramos and it’s not hard to see why a professional team in his native Puerto Rico tried to sign him at 14.

As the story goes, a former player in Puerto Rico’s Superior League who was visiting family in Brooklyn spotted the teenager, immediately placed a call to team officials and not long thereafter the team’s owner was on a plane to New York with hopes of signing Ramos.

“It goes something like that,” said Ramos, selected by Washington with the 32nd pick in last summer’s NBA Draft.

At 7-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Ramos is by far the biggest player in training camp. When he stands next to starting center Brendan Haywood, himself a 7-footer, it is clear the 19-year-old Ramos is every bit his listed height.

However, he also is a gamble.

Ramos, a member of Puerto Rico’s Olympic team, is a project, and nobody expects him to step right in and dominate opponents. Ramos’ game is clearly behind those of Haywood and Etan Thomas.

“No question about it, he’s got a lot to learn,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said not long after the club selected him. “Forgive me for throwing out this cliche, but really you don’t find guys with his size hanging around the water cooler.”

Coach Eddie Jordan looks at Ramos and sees a work in progress. But he also sees some things that must be in place at the start if a player is going to make the transition from project to player.

“We think the foundation is good,” Jordan said. “He’s 7-3, he can catch, he can run and we’re going to build from there. But we know he’s a guy we’re taking a chance on a little bit. We’ll see down the line.”

Ramos, who moved from Puerto Rico to New York when he was 5, has been around basketball for some time. Not long after being spotted in Brooklyn, Ramos put his name on a contract and shortly thereafter was a 15-year-old rookie playing for Criollos de Caguas in the Superior League in the 2000-01 season.

Ramos made little impact, averaging just 1.2 points. However, NBA scouts started making the trip to Puerto Rico more frequently as Ramos became better. And last season, when he averaged 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, they were a mainstay at his games.

But even with the Olympic experience, Ramos concedes he was unsure of what to expect once he started mixing it up with NBA players.

“I was a little bit nervous at the first practice,” Ramos said. “I didn’t know what to expect. My goal is to just learn more every day, and hopefully I’ll be able to help my team when the season starts.”

Jordan is optimistic Ramos will not be a long-term project.

“He has enough tools right now,” Jordan said. “He has enough confidence to compete. He’s tough — I noticed that in the Olympics. He didn’t let anyone push him around, and he wasn’t intimidated. He’s got some fire in his belly; he’s got the foundation.”

Notes — Power forward Michael Ruffin has caught Jordan’s eye after just three days in camp. “He has been the standout — no question about it,” Jordan said. “He’s working hard, battling for rebounds and playing very good defense. I’m surprised at how well he’s working out.” …

The Wizards were visited at yesterday’s morning session by owner Abe Pollin, University of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and Norfolk State coach Dwight Freeman.

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