- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

Danilo Pinnock had seen enough.

The former George Washington star had watched nearly five hours of the NBA Draft with some 30 family members and friends at his house in McDonough, Ga., Wednesday night and had not heard his name called. As the draft broadcast was drawing to a close, Pinnock was beginning to feel like the evening was a waste.

“It was just nerve-racking,” Pinnock said. “I put my head in my hands and my agent taps me on the shoulder and I look up and [the television screen] says ‘Dallas Mavericks select Danilo J.R. Pinnock.’ I put my head back in my hands and started thinking and the tears started flowing. It is something I dreamed about my whole life.”

The explosive 6-foot-5 guard was the third-to-last selection in the draft, late in the second round at No. 58 overall. The emotional night took one more twist shortly after midnight, when the Los Angeles Lakers completed a deal to acquire Pinnock in exchange for a second-round pick in 2007.

Pinnock worked out for the Lakers a second time Tuesday and was highly regarded on that franchise’s draft board — even if he wasn’t on anyone else’s.

“We actually thought he would go considerably higher,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “That’s where we had him. So we scrambled once we realized we had a chance to get him in the second round.”

Kupchak first learned of Pinnock because of reports from Lakers scout Kevin Grevey, a former Washington Bullets guard who lives in Virginia and keeps close tabs on GW. Pinnock led the Colonials with 14.5 points a game, and was known for his spectacular dunks, slashing ability and defensive instincts, which led to 2.4 steals a game.

But it was not until Pinnock’s performance at the Orlando pre-draft camp earlier this month that he became a serious draft candidate.

“He’s got a tough road as far as making the NBA,” said Kupchak, who drafted UCLA guard Jordan Farmar with the 26th pick in the first round. “He has a lot of God-given ability as well as things he’s worked on. The skills part of the game still needs refining, but he has an NBA body, great strengths and physical gifts.”

Pinnock is an excellent rebounder for his position, averaging 5.3 a game last season. He is also a good passer, particularly in transition, and averaged 3.1 assists. But he struggles with his outside shooting, making just 27.5 percent from 3-pointers last season, and also will need to improve his ballhandling to play more of a combo guard in the Lakers’ triangle offense.

Of course, Pinnock’s place in this draft at all is a big surprise. Like former teammates Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Mike Hall did in 2005, Pinnock was expected to test the draft process and return to school without signing an agent.

But Pinnock decided to stay in the draft pool, not because he felt he would be drafted, but because he believed he needed to support his growing family — even if that meant playing overseas or in a lower American league such as the NBA’s Development League or the Continental Basketball Association. Pinnock’s second son, Jaylen, was born two weeks ago.

“I definitely wanted to come back for my senior season,” he said. “But I felt it was important for me to step up and be a man about my situation. So far it is paying off. I just have to keep it going.”

Pinnock is preparing to play on the Lakers’ summer-league team next week, but he is well aware he is not guaranteed a roster spot come the regular season. Only first-round picks have guaranteed contracts. If he is offered a contract, he will earn at least the NBA rookie minimum of $398,000.

But Pinnock is still grateful, both for the opportunity and that someone thought enough of him to make him an NBA draft pick.

“I haven’t cried like that probably since I was a baby,” Pinnock said. “I have never in my life, other than when my sons were born, cried because I was so happy. I have seen people cry because they are happy and said, ‘Aw, man, that’s fake.’ Now I know what they feel like.”

The draft news was not as good for other area hopefuls, as Pinnock was the only local college player taken. Mensah-Bonsu and Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman were not chosen, despite indications they would be.

Mensah-Bonsu, Bowman, GW’s Omar Williams, Maryland’s Nik Caner-Medley and George Mason’s Lamar Butler now hope to participate in the NBA summer leagues and play well enough to earn invitations to fall camps. They will take the difficult route as undrafted free agents, where destinations such as the CBA, the Development League and overseas leagues are more likely than the NBA.

“Everybody’s overall goal is to get drafted,” said Caner-Medley, who felt there was a good chance he would be taken late in the draft. “I am going to play in the summer league and look forward to making a roster any way I can.”

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