- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

The Washington Wizards, looking to bolster their roster at small forward and point guard, believe they did just that last night by selecting Indiana forward Jared Jeffries with the 11th pick and Maryland guard Juan Dixon with the 17th in the NBA Draft.

"You have a wish list going into the draft of players you'd like to have," said Wizards assistant general manager Rod Higgins. "We have players, and I feel today as if our wish came true."

Coach Doug Collins agreed, saying, "We're ecstatic. Jared is tall and skilled. He wants to be here; he's a winner. And Juan has the heart that reminds me of Michael Jordan's. He is the type of player who refuses to lose."

With the 39th and 40th picks, the Wizards drafted 6-foot-8 forward Rod Grizzard (Alabama) and 6-3 Spanish point guard Juan Carlos Navarro, both long shots to make the team.

It appears, at least for now, as if the Wizards have addressed two glaring needs. With Michael Jordan's status uncertain and Tyrone Nesby a free agent, the Wizards needed a small forward. And in Jeffries, recently measured at 6-11, they think they have one who may grow into a center.

"Right now, we can play him at either the three or the four," Collins continued. "If you play him at the three you would expect him to post up against smaller guys. Play him at the four and he can step out and hit the jumper."

Jeffries said he was picked "where I expected to be. There were some situations that may have played out a little different where I could have gone higher, but I don't think they were the right situations for me."

Although many fans will be ecstatic over Dixon staying home, the Wizards' front office was more delighted when Jeffries fell in their lap at No.11.

The Wizards were unsuccessful moving up in the draft in an attempt to grab Connecticut's Caron Butler, who was selected No.10 by the Miami Heat. According to the Wizards, Butler was slightly favored over Jeffries.

It became clear that they would be able to select at least one of those players when Phoenix surprised everybody by snatching high schooler Amare Stoudemire, the first prep player to go in the draft, at No.9.

"You should have been in there," Higgins said of the Wizards' war room, where he was joined by Collins, Michael Jordan and general manager Wes Unseld. "We knew at that time that we were going to be able to get at least one of the guys whom we had rated the highest at that position."

Jeffries, who left school after his sophomore year, saw his stock soar this year while leading the Hoosiers to the NCAA title game, where they lost to Maryland. He weighs close to 225 pounds, 10 more than in college.

Along the way, Jeffries averaged 15 points and 7.6 rebounds. He was named the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player, and he also earned second team All-America honors. Jeffries demonstrated a propensity for big plays in big games. In the Hoosiers' startling upset of Duke in the NCAA tournament, Jeffries dominated inside on the way to 24 points and 15 rebounds.

There are some questions about Jeffries, though. For starters, he is not a slashing forward, one who can take players off the dribble away from the basket. He is not particularly muscular and will have to get stronger, especially if the Wizards are serious about him playing both power forward and center.

The Wizards now have a logjam of big players that includes Jeffries, Kwame Brown, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood. Collins sees this as a positive because "it just means that guys are going to have to compete even harder for the playing time that we have available."

The Wizards positioned themselves to draft Dixon when they traded enigmatic shooting guard Courtney Alexander to New Orleans for the 17th pick.

The 6-3 Dixon capped a fine career at Maryland by leading the Terrapins to their first national championship, which came at the expense of Jeffries and the Hoosiers. He was named first-team All-America and also beat out Duke's Jay Williams selected by Chicago with the second pick as ACC Player of the Year.

"He's been told all of his life that he's been too small to play at this level," Collins said of Dixon, the Terps all-time leading scorer (2,269 points).

However, as much as they coveted him, the Wizards tried to trade up with their second pick in an effort to secure Slovenian swingman Jiri Welsch, drafted by Philadelphia at the 16th position and later traded to Golden State for a future first-round pick.

According to Collins, teams were in hot pursuit of Dixon almost immediately after the Wizards drafted him.

"We've been called by two teams about him already," Collins said minutes afterward.

Dixon thought the Wizards might select him. "I knew they wanted a guard," he said. "I had a good workout with them, and I think I showed them a lot. It's going to be nice to get a chance to play for the Wizards."


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