- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jamie Skeen describes his demeanor as “not cocky, but confident.”

It was just over three months ago that the Virginia Commonwealth University power forward led his squad on one of the most unforgettable runs in NCAA tournament history.

Now he aims to carry it over to the next level.

On Thursday, Skeen hopes to follow in the footsteps of pros Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders and become the third VCU player to be drafted into the NBA in three years.

But getting there has required more than just a hope and a dream. In the last month and a half, Skeen has been like a businessman, traveling the U.S. and showcasing his talents in front of 15 NBA squads. His latest destinations were Miami, Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte.

“I’m getting good reactions from [NBA coaches],” Skeen said. “I gradually got better at each workout on that road trip.”

Skeen admits the journey has been exhausting, but he finds a word of motivation the morning of every workout from his former coach at VCU, Shaka Smart.

Smart, who found Wake Forest transfer Skeen waiting when he took over at VCU, sends the player a text message before every workout that begins with the name “King” after his favorite player, LeBron James.

“He’s just been telling me to go out there and give it my all like it was in the season when I was playing out of my mind,” Skeen said.

That may be an understatement for how well the 23-year-old played toward the end of the season. He averaged just over 17 points and six rebounds in the NCAA tournament while earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the Southwest Regional and making the all-tournament team.

Skeen will be the first to acknowledge that without the help of the Rams’ run to the Final Four, he would not even be in the draft conversation.

“It helped me out a lot,” Skeen said. “Without it I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t even be here talking about it.”

ESPN NBA draft insider Chad Ford has Skeen ranked 57th on his big board — landing late in the second round.

“Before VCU’s Final Four run, I can’t recall one NBA scout or general manager who is mentioning Jamie Skeen as a potential NBA player,” Ford said. “When you saw what he was able to do against some pretty fantastic basketball teams, and his skill level and his size and his reach and you put everything together, he is a pretty intriguing guy.”

The 6-foot-8, 242-pound Charlotte, N.C., native has been deemed undersized for his position by many, but Skeen has a long-range jumper that many power forwards do not.

While Skeen may be absent from many mock drafts, he pays no attention to the lack of hype surrounding him.

“I don’t check them,” Skeen said. “They are not accurate at all. People that do the mock drafts are guys that just sit at home on their computers and sit on the Internet — that’s not accurate.”

There won’t be a big draft-party blowout at the Skeen residence; he prefers the simple comforts of his family. Come Thursday night, Skeen expects to hear his name called.

He’s not cocky, he’s just confident.

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