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From the Official Indiana Pacers Website:


Walsh Keeps Promise with Surprise Pick
By Conrad Brunner


Indianapolis, June 26 - Heading into the NBA Draft, Donnie Walsh said wanted versatility, experience, creativity and toughness.



He also said the 14th pick just might turn out to be a surprise.

Turns out, he wasn't lying. Who knew?

Pulling the biggest shocker of the first round, Walsh reached out for Oregon guard Freddie Jones, a superior athlete who was widely rated as a late first-round or early second-round pick. And this wasn't just the media's mock-draft dart-throwing. The NBA's own Draft Guide had Jones ranked sixth among shooting guards, and he was not among the 16 players invited by the league to attend the draft in New York.

The Pacers themselves had him projected as the 21st pick, and considered a few scenarios what would've allowed them to trade down. Ultimately, though, there was too much uncertainty about the picks immediately following them, while there was none about the decision to select Jones.

Walsh

"Fred Jones was one of the last players to come in (for an individual workout)," Walsh said. "Isiah (Thomas) picked him out in Chicago as a guy we should look at, and seemed to really like him. When he came here, I looked at him and thought, 'This guy's got a chance to go to another level.' He's a great athlete. I believe he can shoot the ball. He is a guy who can handle the basketball, a guy who can pass the basketball. If you look at his statistics, he's right in line with what we were talking about the other day - he's played in college at a high level, won big-time games, last-second shots, all that - and yet in this draft he was close to being overlooked because he hurt his shoulder in one of the workouts. I think he's got a chance to fit in with our team.

"He really is a super athlete, a guy with a great body and a guy that can create his own shot, which we don't have a lot of."

Jones, who worked out Monday and dazzled the scouting staff with his explosive leaping ability, didn't expect to be drafted so high, and said he got little indication from the Pacers that he was their man.


Jones

"I really didn't (know what to expect)," he said by telephone from his home in Gresham, OR. "I knew when I came up on Monday we had a really good meeting and everything. I wasn't able to work out the way I wanted to because I was injured, but I felt good about it. I was a little surprised, though."

At 6-4, Jones played primarily shooting guard at Oregon but is considered by the Pacers as capable of playing both backcourt positions.

"We have a need that he fills, and that is he can take the ball and create his own play," said Walsh. "He doesn't need screens, he doesn't need help, he can just take it and go. And when he gets stopped by the defense he can probably just jump up in the air over them and shoot it. That's what Tracy McGrady can do, that's what (Vince) Carter can do, what an unusual athlete can do."

Jones was a Wooden Award finalist in 2002 who was the MVP of an Oregon team that reached the Elite Eight, finishing his career as the only player ranked in the school's top 10 in eight statistical categories. He is not considered a strong perimeter shooter, though his field goal percentage as a senior was .521 overall, with a respectable .372 from the 3-point line.

"I'm ecstatic to have a guy like this," Thomas said. "We may have plucked out the most unique player in the draft, when you look at his skills and his level of play. He's done it at a very high level. His jumping ability gives him an edge, particularly in this league, with his ability to put the ball on the floor. ... He's from a good family, quality guy, character - all the things you want an athlete and a person to be coming into your organization, he's that. We think he's got a chance to possibly go to another level because of his athleticism."

When asked to put Jones' athleticism in an NBA frame of reference, Thomas called upon some heady company.


Thomas

"When I first saw him I thought he had the jumping ability of a jumping ability of a McGrady and a Vince Carter, in terms of an explosive ability to get above the rim and jump that high," he said. "Then when I met him, he was a bigger version of Vinnie Johnson. He's like Vinnie Johnson with hops. He's a massive man. When you walk up on him, it's like walking up on Ron Artest and Al Harrington. He's a big boy and he's got a 7-foot wingspan. The way that he can jump, the way he can handle the ball, he's very exciting and he knows how to play. he's been tested under the American system. He's done well in college. He's proven he can do it at the highest level of competition, amateur-wise, that you can do here in the States.

"He's about as complete a player in this draft, in terms of rebounding the basketball, stealing the basketball, defending, I mean, he stuffs the stat sheet. We like him. We like him a lot."

Said Walsh: "It's like looking at Julius or someone like that when he goes up there. And it's quick."

A number of prominent names were on the board when the Pacers picked, including Stanford center Curtis Borchardt and junior college star Qyntel Woods, but neither merited strong consideration. Borchardt has a history of foot injuries and would have little opportunity to play behind Brad Miller, Jeff Foster and Primoz Brezec. Woods has talent and potential, but the Pacers considered him a long-term project and placed a high priority on a player who could contribute immediately.

Jones is the second four-year college player in a row added to the roster in the first round, following Jamaal Tinsley last season.

"There were a lot of good players available," Walsh said. "But we were wondering why this guy was not mentioned more. When you went through the NCAA tournament, this guy was an outstanding player. What happens is sometimes in the draft, all of a sudden all these new guys come in from Europe, and these high school players, a guy gets hurt in a workout and he gets forgotten. That's all I can think here.

"I'm not going to say we were just looking for four-year guys. But, we have a very good team, accumulating some good young players who could develop while the team was still winning. Those guys have gotten the experience so now that we're trying to have a good team go for it, if that's what you want to say, we want players who can fit in right now or else they're going to be overwhelmed coming in here because we've got an awful lot of young players with experience. You've got to have guys who can play with that, and I think this guy can."

Jones also was a clutch performer. He hit a game-winner with one second remaining to lift Oregon over USC and into a tie for the Pac-10 title. Two days later, he hit the clinching bucket against UCLA with 13 seconds left to give the Ducks the outright conference title. In the NCAA tournament, his finger-roll layup with 2.8 seconds left lifted Oregon past Texas and into the Elite Eight. He scored at least 20 points in eight of the team's final 12 games.

He averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals as a senior, earning third-team All-America honors.

So why wasn't he more highly regarded as a draft prospect? For one, he was a late bloomer; he averaged 9.7 points as a junior before exploding as a senior. For another, he suffered a strained rotator cuff during a workout for the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the Chicago pre-draft camp that hindered his performance there and limited his availability for workouts thereafter.

"I think sometimes guys get lost in the system," Walsh said. "You can go back with higher profile players. (Paul) Pierce from Boston went 10th. Is he the 10th pick in the draft now? I can name you a lot of guys like that. It happens in this draft because when these young new players come in, foreign or high school players, you think you've done a lot of homework on them but you really haven't because they haven't played the type of competition where you can judge them."

Jones thought he merited stronger consideration based on his college career, but wasn't obsessing about it.

"I felt like I deserved better than that from the start," he said, "but any time you're put in the position to play at this level, nothing's negative about it. I just really appreciate the game and I want to be at the highest level."

Making the jump, after all, has been his specialty for years.


For me, this pick really surprised me. If he can contribute well he can be our guy. Plus he has the college experience to his credentials (with buzzer-beaters game winning shots). I'm positive though that this will be a good pick for the Pacers.

:)
 
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