- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

The Washington Wizards took another step forward in the draft process by holding their first predraft workout Thursday at Verizon Center.

With team president Ernie Grunfeld and other team officials looking on, six players participated in the practice session: Oregon State center C.J. Giles, Tennessee-Martin guard Lester Hudson, Kansas forward Darnell Jackson, Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo, Florida forward/center Marreese Speights and Rider forward Jason Thompson.

“It was exciting,” Pargo said. “There’s a great atmosphere here in Washington, a great tradition of excellence here. We got out there and tried to play our hearts out.”

The Wizards hold the 18th and 47th picks in the June 26 draft and are likely to look for a big man with their first selection. The team has a full backcourt with DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young, Roger Mason Jr. and Antonio Daniels under contract for next season. Although three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas expects to opt out of his contract later this month, Grunfeld has said he plans on re-signing the guard.

Thompson and Speights could be candidates for the Wizards’ first-round pick. Both are considered late lottery to mid-first round caliber prospects.

Thompson, a 6-foot-11 forward, averaged 20.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks last season as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year. With experience at guard before hitting his growth spurt, Thompson has the ability to play on the perimeter and tried to impress the Wizards’ staff with his offensive repertoire.

“I tried to show my versatility, shooting and establishing a post game as well,” Thompson said. “Obviously, if I come here as a rookie I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team, whether it’s to get some rebounds, shoot from the outside, step some big men out that are slower than I am or establish a post. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

One negative for Thompson is he has yet to prove himself against elite competition, because he played at a mid-major. But he is confident his skills will shine through and he can be an example that all NBA-ready players are not found at major programs.

“Being from a small school, I have to prove myself everywhere,” Thompson said. “But I use that as motivation, and if I get my name called on draft day it can encourage guys to not go to a big school just for the name. You can play anywhere and still get looked at by NBA teams and scouts.”

Speights, who compared his game to that of Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace, is also an athletic big man who can work effectively outside the paint. Having played on a national championship team with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah and Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford while a freshman at Florida, the 6-10 Speights has a unique advantage over other prospects.

“They taught me a lot. I learned from playing with them, and they still talk to me and tell me stuff to work on.” he said.

Thursday’s workout was the first of several the Wizards will conduct. They have others scheduled Friday and each day next week, one of which will include North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson.

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