- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2015

Kevon Looney stood at roughly 6-foot-4 as a freshman at Alexander Hamilton High School in Milwaukee.

Five years later, five inches taller and with a season at UCLA under his belt, the 19-year-old highlighted the Washington Wizards’ pre-draft workout Monday.

Looney’s teammate at UCLA, 22-year-old guard Norman Powell, was also among the latest batch of prospects to showcase their skills for the Wizards. Talking to reporters about his young teammate’s potential, Powell shared a surprising fact.

Looney played point guard in his senior year of high school and was responsible for point guard duties throughout all four years, despite standing 6-foot-9 at graduation.

“That’s what my team needed,” Looney said. “My guards weren’t like point guards. They could shoot it, but they weren’t like point guards. So, it was my role to get everybody involved. And, for us to win, I had to play that position.”

Both Looney and Powell have been busy traveling the country and working out for various NBA teams in recent weeks, but Monday marked the first time that the former Bruins shared an NBA court.

“Kevon is a freak of nature,” Powell said. “His measurements are out of this world, his wingspan, his IQ of being able to go and grab rebounds. I’ve seen him grab rebounds I didn’t even think was possible.”

The 19-year-old averaged 11.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in his one-and-done season at UCLA. In the time since, his 7-foot-4 wingspan has captured the attention of NBA scouts across the league.

Most mock drafts project Looney going in the vicinity of the Wizards’ first-round pick at 19th overall. Powell, meanwhile, is projected to be available in the range of Washington’s second-round pick, 49th overall.

Although Powell grew familiar with Looney over the course of their season together, he noticed some differences playing against his former teammate in three-on-three drills on Monday.

“I see improvement in his pull-ups, in his ball handling, being able to get to where he wants,” Powell said. “He’s been working really hard.”

More hard work lies ahead for Looney, who is far from a polished product, especially in the low post. The gaps in Looney’s offensive game were evident as he went up against Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan in three-on-three drills.

With his back to the basket, Looney lacked the footwork to free up enough space for a good shot. The shot he wound up taking bounced harmlessly off the backboard. Moments later, however, Looney showed the versatility that scouts are looking for in the increasingly position-less NBA by hitting a shot off the dribble a few feet inside the arc.

Looney, who believes he can play either the small forward or power forward positions effectively, was well aware of the current trend that has NBA big men stepping further and further from the rim.

In a limited sample size of 53 three-point attempts while at UCLA, Looney connected at an impressive 41.5 percent clip.

“I think I can play both. I don’t like to limit myself because when I watch the games, a lot of guys are interchangeable,” Looney said. “Otto Porter played a lot of three and the four. Paul Pierce even played the four this year. You watch a team like Golden State, where guys are playing everywhere, so I don’t like to limit myself. I think I can play both. If my coach needs me to play at the four, I would play it. If they need me to play the three, I would play it.”

While much of Looney’s draft value is based on his future potential, he’s a proven rebounder at the college level — something that, as Looney pointed out, generally translates well to the NBA level.

“My biggest strength right now is rebounding. College rebounders usually translate if they’ve got the size, and I think I’ve got the size,” Looney said. “I think I can do that with anybody.”

Unlike his frame, Looney’s overall size is subject to debate. At 6-foot-9, he is currently listed at just 220 pounds and will likely have to add more if he wants to contend with the NBA’s top rebounders.

While it’s the uncertainties that make the NBA draft so exciting, Looney was certain about one thing — the suit he’ll be wearing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday.

“It isn’t too flashy,” Looney said. “It’s just right.”

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