- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

A few months after leading their teams to the cusp of college basketball's Holy Grail the NCAA title Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon, the newest Washington Wizards, believe they learned something about each other that will help as they begin professional careers as teammates.

A day after being selected No.11 and No.17, respectively, in the 2002 NBA Draft, the most recent players pegged to help with the resurrection of the franchise met the media yesterday at MCI Center. Over three seasons, Jeffries is guaranteed $4.3million and Dixon $3.16million.

While they hope to forge great moments on the court this season and in the future as Wizards, both talked of competing at the highest level of college sports and the respect that came from the experience.

Dixon, the 6-foot-3 guard from Baltimore, was the better that night in Atlanta, scoring a team-high 18 points to lead Maryland to a 64-52 victory and its first national championship. All Jeffries could muster in defeat were eight points and four turnovers.

However, leading up to the game, Dixon said he and his Maryland teammates had one thing on their minds: shutting down Jeffries.

"We watched a lot of tape of him and you could see that he was talented and very versatile," Dixon said. "Our whole game plan was to try and stop him. I'm pleased to be his teammate, and we're going to try to do everything now to get the Wizards back into the playoffs."

Jeffries was long on praise for Dixon. "It made me laugh when I found out they were talking about him," Jeffries said about Dixon being too short and too light (164 pounds) to make it in the NBA.

"You can't measure the heart that someone has. He's got plenty of heart and he backs it up with his game."

Dixon and Jeffries, All-Americans last season and MVPs of their respective conferences (ACC and Big Ten), were joined by fellow draft pick Rod Grizzard, the 39th overall pick from Alabama, and members of the Wizards front office. All fielded questions about what they see as their roles with a team that finished with 32 victories last season.

The Wizards also selected Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro with the 40th pick. Navarro has a year remaining on his contract in Spain and did not attend yesterday's introductions.

Wizards coach Doug Collins was ecstatic with getting Jeffries and Dixon, and yesterday spoke glowingly of Grizzard, a 6-8 slasher whom Collins believes would have gone higher in the draft had it not been for a hyperextended right knee suffered while preparing for Wednesday's draft.

"I feel today as if we have three first-rounders," Collins said of Grizzard, who averaged 14.1 points as a junior last season. "Rod is an explosive player who plays with a lot of energy."

He also doesn't lack confidence. Grizzard was disappointed with his place in the draft but said he would use that as motivation.

"I was supposed to go in the first round," he said. "But that's OK. I'm happy with Washington. I just have to get myself ready to play soon."

Grizzard, however, will not be ready in time to participate during the team's minicamp or the Boston Summer League, where the Wizards will begin play July 15. He still must complete three weeks of rehabilitation.

Jeffries' addition means that the Wizards have a logjam of young, talented big men the likes of which they haven't had since the days of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Rasheed Wallace.

Jeffries, 6-11, will be joined in the frontcourt by last year's top pick, Kwame Brown, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood.

"That's good," Jeffries said of Webber, Howard and Wallace. "They all went on to have great careers and become All-Stars. We'll all push each other and make each other better."

Majority owner Abe Pollin, ever the optimist, was true to form in his praise of the Wizards' draftees, and rightly so. NBA officials from around the country seemed to agree that the Wizards had drafted deftly.

"I couldn't be happier with the draft," Pollin said. "You will see two young players dedicated to the game who are full of passion."

Collins, recovering nicely from double-hip replacement in May, said, "They should enjoy this for about 90 minutes, and then they should be ready to work," Collins said. "We think we were very lucky to get them; it's up to them to prove us right."


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