- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

NEW YORK — Andrew Bogut, the Australian center by way of Croatia expected to be selected first in the NBA Draft, has made two things clear: He wouldn’t mind playing for Milwaukee, and he doesn’t want to be compared to Luc Longley.

The 7-foot center plopped himself down at an interview table yesterday and kept some distance from the microphones placed in front of him, though he didn’t shy away from displaying the one personality trait — outspokenness — that has helped make him such a unique commodity.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the first pick, and it would be a major surprise if they did not select the 7-footer with the chubby face, shaggy hair and blue eyes who played two seasons at Utah before opting to turn pro.

“I know there’s a lot of beer and cheese there, and that suits me,” Bogut said of the Wisconsin city where he likely will be making his home for the next five seasons.

Bogut is better associated with beer and cheese than the average 20-year-old but only because his customers used to order plenty of each when he worked as a waiter in a Salt Lake City sports-themed restaurant to help pay his rent in college. He said he chose that line of work so he could better relate to the average American.

Soon, it will be Americans looking to get a better handle on him.

Bogut’s unique blend of size, skills and smarts likely will put him atop the pecking order when commissioner David Stern steps to the podium at Madison Square Garden tonight for the annual processions of prospects wearing flashy suits and million-dollar smiles.

Most American fans have been exposed to few Australian players, with the best-known commodity from Down Under being Longley, the center who won three championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.

But Longley was often widely dismissed as a “stiff” whose success was owed to having the good fortune of playing alongside Michael Jordan during the peak of his career.

Other Australians who made it to the NBA, including big men Paul Rogers, Chris Anstey and Mark Bradtke and guards Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze, saw little playing time before abandoning the notion of playing long-term in the United States.

Bogut, who described himself “proud” to be half-Croatian, half-Australian, said he wasn’t even a fan of any Australian players when he was growing up playing basketball, rugby, soccer and tennis, preferring Croatian guard Drazen Petrovic as his athletic idol.

So when the inevitable Longley comparisons were thrown at him during an informal press conference at a hotel ballroom, Bogut was dismissive.

“I’ve had a better collegiate career than anyone else from Australia that came over here,” Bogut said. “I’m not as slow as Luc Longley. I’m more athletic. I can shoot better. I’m more competitive. So I think it’s not even fair to bring that name up.”

If Bogut is picked No. 1, he will be the first center to go first overall since Yao Ming in 2002 and the first player from a U.S. college to be the No. 1 pick since Kenyon Martin in 2000.

Atlanta chooses second, with Portland, New Orleans and Charlotte rounding out the top five. Bobcats general manager Bernie Bickerstaff said Charlotte could move up to No. 3 if it agreed to package the fifth and 13th picks in a deal with the Trail Blazers.

“Portland has not made a move, and I don’t think anything gets resolved until Portland makes a move,” Bickerstaff said.

The Hawks are expected to select North Carolina freshman Marvin Williams, an athletic small forward who came off the bench for the Tar Heels.

Bogut said the choice between himself and Williams comes down to experience vs. potential, and his background of going up against the likes of Yao and Tim Duncan at last summer’s Olympics only has added to his basketball IQ.

“It does seem like Milwaukee is heading toward Bogut, but I don’t blame them,” Williams said. “He’s a great player.”

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