Profile Of Potential Celtics Draftee Robert Swift
wayray at ix.netcom.com
wayray at ix.netcom.com
Thu May 6 09:28:29 CDT 2004
Ainge was eyeing him and I suspect he could go anywhere from 13 to 27. . .
Bakersfield's Swift to enter NBA draft
By Bryant-Jon Anteola
The Fresno Bee
(Updated Thursday, May 6, 2004, 5:50 AM)
High school basketball star Robert Swift plans to go pro.
The 7-foot center from Bakersfield High faxed a letter to the NBA office Tuesday night, declaring himself eligible for next month's draft and ending months of speculation about his future.
Swift, who signed with USC in November, is a projected first-round pick, some NBA scouts say. Swift said he will hold off signing with an agent until after the draft.
College underclassmen and high school players have until June 17 to withdraw from the draft. They can retain their college eligibility as long as they do not sign with and accept benefits from an agent.
"Playing in the NBA is a dream I've always had, and now it's an opportunity," Swift, 18, said. "My goal is to be taken in the first round, and from what I've been told, I think that's a good possibility." Swift, who played at Bakersfield this past season after spending his first three years at Garces, ended his high school career with 2,044 points -- ninth-best in Central Section history. He also had 1,503 career rebounds, the section's second-best mark.
Swift, who weighs 265 pounds, is the ninth high school player to declare for the NBA draft. Last year, four high school players were drafted, including top pick LeBron James.
During a national camp in July, Swift proved he could compete with the nation's best prep stars after playing well in a matchup against Dwight Howard, arguably the nation's top high school player who also has entered the NBA draft.
"I feel I can compete with anybody from the class of 2004," Swift said.
Both of Swift's high school coaches, former Bakersfield coach Justin Hutson and Garces coach Gino Lacava, said scouts have been impressed with his footwork, soft hands, ability to shoot near the basket, leaping ability and timing of blocks, and basketball knowledge.
As many as 20 scouts attended one of Swift's games this past season.
"He has all the natural abilities that can't be taught, especially being a 7-footer," Hutson said. "The things he needs -- getting bigger, developing a go-to move -- that can be taught over time. And Robert is a hard worker. He's willing to learn.
"But he's still going from playing the best in the Central Section to playing the best in the world. That's a tough transition for anyone."
Since his high school season ended in March, Swift has been working out with former NBA player Mark McNamara, who is a scout for several teams and currently is serving as Swift's adviser.
Bruce Swift, the player's father, said his son would have academically qualified to play at USC as long as he continued to pass his classes. Swift has a 2.03 grade-point average and scored a 21 on the ACT college entrance exam, Bruce Swift said.
"It wouldn't have made a difference," Bruce Swift said. "Between all the negatives and positives of playing pro or college, Robert felt learning at the pro level and getting paid at the same time was a wise decision."
Added USC coach Henry Bibby: "We knew when we signed Robert, there was a good chance he'd a have an opportunity like this. It goes with the territory of signing elite players.
"We still hope he still attends USC this fall, but at this point we wish him the best."
Swift said he would only play college ball if he wasn't selected in the first round. Under NBA rules, only first-round selections are guaranteed a three-year contract.
Currently a back-to-the basket player, Swift said he would like to expand his game to playing up-tempo and to be able to face up and shoot.
But Darren Matsubara, who heads the Elite Basketball Organization and coached Swift over the summer, said it's Swift's size and style of play that could help increase his draft stock "because he has a true position at center in the NBA and it eliminates the guessing work of where he'd play."
"The thing Rob has going for him is he's 7-foot and already has great knowledge for the game," Matsubara said. "His potential, once he bulks up, is an added bonus. It's the dessert to his entree."
If drafted, Swift would become the section's second player to jump straight to the NBA from high school. Former Washington star DeShawn Stevenson was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2000.
"I'm confident that if I do what I need to do," Swift said, "I can have a long career as a player in the NBA."
The reporter can be reached at banteola at fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6362.
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