- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

The Washington Wizards will select 19-year-old high school All-American Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick in today's NBA Draft barring a last-minute trade of the choice, according to two sources close to the situation.

If Brown is drafted first, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound forward from Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga., will become the first high school player in league history to be chosen with the top pick.

The Wizards brought in 16 players for workouts and interviews last week and over the weekend reduced their list to Brown, 7-1 high school forward Tyson Chandler and 6-9 Seton Hall freshman Eddie Griffin. However, Griffin was not brought back for further workouts and interviews on Monday, an indication that he is no longer in the running to be the top pick.

Brown, who declined to work out for the Wizards a month ago, is said to have dazzled team officials with his athleticism in two workouts since. Brown, who likes to play facing the basket, is considered to be much more NBA-ready than Chandler, who weighs 221 pounds and at times shuns physical contact.

"[Brown's] got the potential to be a special player," Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Eric Musselman said. "He has a great combination of strength and speed. You can see he will be able to play multiple positions. He's got a pro body already. He was impressive in interviews, and he's extremely mature for his age."

Part of that maturity was born out of a need to take care of his family, which includes seven siblings. Brown committed orally to attend the University of Florida in December. However, a worsening degenerative condition in his mother's back forced the B student to change his plans and apply for the draft.

"I wanted to go to school," Brown said, "but this is something I wanted to do for my mother."

The Wizards have said they are not trying to trade the pick. But one Eastern Conference general manager told The Times last week that the Wizards have been attempting to move the pick, and he stood by that assertion yesterday.

"They're not married to making the pick," he said. "They're taking a lot more calls for the pick than they're making. But they're listening hard to everyone."

The Wizards admit this.

"We've had a lot of teams call us already and we expect more teams to continue to call," coach Doug Collins said. "Our number one goal is to figure out who we're going to draft at number one. The number two thing then would be how do we best maximize our pick. Is it by drafting? Is that the way we can get better? Or is it by having someone give us a real quality player and another pick. Those are the things we're sorting through right now."

The Wizards, who have ruled out trading guard Richard Hamilton, have entertained the idea of trading down for a veteran Vancouver point guard Mike Bibby and the team's No. 6 pick has been mentioned most frequently but the Wizards have yet to hear an offer that has truly gotten their attention.

"We haven't seen anything that's moved us yet," president of basketball operations Michael Jordan said.

Trading the top pick always has been seen as controversial and risky, and the team making the trade has not always fared well. In 1986 the Philadelphia 76ers traded the top pick in the draft which turned out to be Brad Daugherty in exchange for Roy Hinson. Hinson played slightly less than two years none of which was spectacular before being dealt to New Jersey. Daugherty, on the other hand, was a five-time All-Star whose career was cut short by injuries.

The Wizards will set the tone of the draft with the top pick, and if they pick Brown he will not only be the first high school player taken No. 1 in the draft, but it could begin a rush on high school players and underclassmen. The Los Angeles Clippers, with the second pick, are said to be interested in high school center Eddy Curry. Chandler could also go in the first six picks.

Last year an NBA Draft record 18 underclassmen were chosen in the first round, breaking the previous record of 17 set in the 1996 draft that included current stars Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

This year, along with a record application of six high schoolers for the draft, 47 underclassmen are eligible for the draft.

"It's getting younger and younger and younger," said NBA director of scouting Marty Blake. "But if the talent is young you can't consider how old they are. You've just got to make sure you do the right things to make their transition good."

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