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Aussie starts, France finishes: draft has international flavor



Published: Thu, June 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Eighteen foreign-born players were selected in the draft.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Andrew Bogut had long since left the building by the time Mickael Gelabale of France proudly strode onstage sporting a mop-top of dreadlocks that couldn't be contained by his brand new Sonics cap.

The shaggy-haired forward was one of 11 international players picked in the second round of Tuesday night's NBA draft as several teams tried to find the next Manu Ginobili -- a player drafted 57th overall by San Antonio in 1999 who blossomed into an All-Star for the NBA champions.

"He is a very capable player. He can do everything. The call him the no-mistake guy," agent Bouna Ndiaye said of the 6-foot-7 Gelabale, who spent last season with Real Madrid in Spain.

The Spanish league also produced a lottery pick when the Orlando Magic selected Unicaja Malaga forward Fran Vasquez with the 11th overall selection.

In all, there were 18 international players among the 60 picks.

Top picks

CSKA Moscow forward Yaroslav Korolev went 12th to the Los Angeles Clippers, and a pair of players from the French League -- Johan Petro of Pau Orthez and Ian Mahinmi of Le Havre -- were selected late in the first round by Seattle and San Antonio, respectively.

"He was our target," Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said of Mahinmi in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Where we draft, we don't get a chance to see many 6-10-plus athletes with that type of athleticism. You just don't see that at the end of the first round, so consequently, having an opportunity to get that type of player was a priority."

The Spurs have been successful drafting international players, selecting Slovenian guard Beno Udrih a year ago, Argentine forward Luis Scola in 2002, French point guard Tony Parker in 2001 and Ginobili in 1999.

The last time the Spurs drafted a player from the American mainland in the first round and kept him on the roster was in 1990 when they chose Dwayne Schintzius of Florida. (Tim Duncan of the U.S. Virgin Islands is listed as an international player by the NBA.)

The Milwaukee Bucks chose Bogut, an Australian of Croatian descent, with the No. 1 pick, thereby furthering a trend.

Trend

Foreign-born players have been chosen No. 1 overall in four of the last nine drafts, and since 1992 there has only been one American player with four years of college experience, Kenyon Martin in 2000, to be picked first.

"Basketball is a global game, just like soccer is a global game," Bogut said.

A few minutes after the draft ended, agent Bill Duffy was wondering how his newest client, Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick, had dropped all the way to the Memphis Grizzlies at No. 19.

Duffy was one of the first American agents to recruit heavily in Europe, and even he wondered whether NBA teams had shifted their focus too far away from homegrown talent.

As Duffy spoke, the shaggy-haired Gelabale and several of his countrymen mugged for pictures onstage and gleefully conversed in French as a few die-hard lingerers at Madison Square Garden struck up a chant of "One more pick."

Asked about his client's hair, Ndiaye said Gelabale had planned to cut it before being overruled by his marketing consultants.




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