- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Andray Blatche yesterday became the first player to be called up from the National Basketball Development League by the Washington Wizards.

And Blatche, 19, the 49th overall pick in last summer’s draft, hopes it is a permanent promotion.

“Believe me, nobody ever wants to go to the D-League,” Blatche said yesterday after the Wizards practiced for tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets. “From going down there and experiencing how it is, I’m real motivated to stay up here and work hard. I don’t want to go back.”

Blatche, who made an amazingly quick recovery from gunshot wounds to his chest and forearm in late September, right before the Wizards (12-16) started training camp, didn’t exactly spend a lifetime with Washington’s NBDL affiliate, the Roanoke Dazzle. He was sent down Dec.4 and appeared in six games, averaging 11.2 points while shooting 51 percent from the floor. He also averaged 6.8 rebounds.

The NBDL’s purpose is to help young players who are not ready to contribute immediately to an NBA club get playing time. This is the first year it has been used in this manner because of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who plans to give Blatche some playing time, said a stint in the NBDL can be a valuable learning experience that teaches players some perspective.

“There are a lot of people trying to get to the NBA that are almost as skillful, athletic and as talented as he is, guys who have a feel for the game just like he does. But there is more to being in the NBA than that,” Jordan said.

“It’s about being professional. That is a whole lot to learn for a kid straight out of prep school. It’s about learning to handle your failures as well as your successes on a day-to-day basis.”

The Wizards feel Blatche, selected out of South Kent (Conn.) Prep, needs to build up his confidence so he eventually can become a contributor. They also want him to improve his conditioning, which was hindered by his being shot during an attempted carjacking, so he can withstand the demands of NBA competition as quickly as possible.

Blatche said he lost some confidence as a result of his limited time on the court with the Wizards. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in four games before being sent to the NBDL.

“The incident took away a lot, and it wasn’t just physical,” Blatche said of the ongoing investigation that prohibits him from speaking extensively about the shooting. “I got a chance to play more down there [in the NBDL]. I have a pretty good understanding of what I need to do now.”

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