- The Washington Times - Friday, July 1, 2005

In the days leading up to the NBA Draft, people told Andray Blatche he made the right decision by turning pro.

But Blatche, selected by the Washington Wizards out of South Kent (Conn.) Prep School, believed he would walk onto the stage at Madison Square Garden in his new suit Tuesday in the first round, not the second. The 6-foot-11, 235-pounder went to the Wizards with the 49th selection.

“I have to say I was a little bit disappointed,” Blatche said yesterday at MCI Center. “I was getting a lot of advice from a lot of people, and I figured that I was going to go earlier than I did. But it’s cool. God makes everything happen for a reason. I’m just looking at going in the second round to the Wizards as a reason to work even harder to reach my goals.”

Blatche said Boston Celtics officials told him as recently as earlier this week they would select him if he was still available with the 18th pick. However, Gerald Green, the Houston prep prospect who has been compared favorably to Tracy McGrady, was still on the board, and the Celtics pounced.

“It’s a business, the business of basketball, and those kind of things happen,” Blatche said.

Blatche, who will turn 19 in August, averaged 27.5 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks last season at South Kent, and was forecast in many mock drafts as a first-round pick. However, his status as the eighth high school player selected is not something that will get the slender forward down.

“It is what it is right now,” said Blatche, co-MVP at the Jordan Classic prep all-star game with 26 points and 16 rebounds in just 28 minutes. “But I’m just happy I am getting the opportunity to play at the next level.”

Blatche, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., didn’t hesitate to say he never intended to go to college. However, he said that had he come out next season — when players no longer will be allowed to enter the NBA directly from high school — that would have been OK, too.

“I think that rule is there for a reason, and I think it can work both ways,” Blatche said of requiring U.S. players to be at least 19 and one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft. “I think you are going to see guys do a year at prep school. Or maybe a guy will go to college, find out that he likes it a lot and go for four years.”

Blatche, who has never played against anyone at the professional level, will get his indoctrination in coming days. It begins this weekend when he and more than a dozen hopefuls will participate in the Wizards’ summer camp for rookies and free agents at MCI Center.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Blatche said. “It’s time to start getting ready.”

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