It's not often that the NBA picks up rejects from the United States Basketball League, but that would happen if Coppin State's Larry Stewart or Maryland's Cedric Lewis are selected in tonight's draft.
Stewart and Lewis were cut from the Philadelphia Spirit of the USBL late last month (the team had four spots for rookies), but based on impressive showings in postseason scouting combines and tournaments, there's an outside chance either could be a late second-round pick.
"Both Cedric and Larry would definitely go in a three-round draft," said Glenn Schwartzman, an agent of the SportsPro management company that represents the two. "A lot of teams are interested in both of them, and after the 13th pick, it's really shaping up to be a strange draft."
Lewis, because he played in the ACC, is the better known of the two and averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots while starting all 28 games in 1990-91. A center at Maryland, Lewis, 6 feet 9, 223 pounds, was one of the top rebounders and shot blockers in the Portsmouth (Va.) Tournament for college seniors in April.
The Atlanta Hawks and the Denver Nuggets have contacted the coaches at Maryland about Lewis.
Lewis said: "I've heard so many different things. Some people said I could go from 22 to 33, and recently I haven't seen my name mentioned at all. In a way, that's kind of discouraging, but not all of what you read is true, and hopefully that won't be in this case."
Lewis said he has spent his spare time working on his offense, which NBA scouts have called questionable.
"Even though I worked on that this past season, there are still a lot of non-believers," Lewis said. "My offense is not awful, and I believe I can score. I've been described strictly as a defensive player since high school, and that label has stuck my entire career."
Stewart didn't get much national attention while playing at CoppinState, but he averaged 23.8 points and 13.4 rebounds (fourth nationally) on his way to being named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season. He also won the 1991 John B. McLendon Trophy as the top player attending a historically black school (A.J. English of the Washington Bullets won the award in 1990).
Although he wasn't invited to any of the postseason tournaments, Stewart did play at the NBA scouting combine in Chicago this month and averaged 14 points and six rebounds while being matched against the likes of Brian Shorter (Pittsburgh) and LaBradford Smith (Louisville).
"I felt good about my performance out there -- I even hit my first NBA three [he hit one of three three-pointers in college]," said Stewart, a power forward at Coppin who played small forward in Chicago. "I felt good just going out there, and evidently someone thought highly enough of me to invite me."
Schwartzman said: "After his performance out there, a half-dozenclubs expressed interest in him. People were happy with his ability to play the three spot. He didn't have that opportunity at Coppin."
Reggie Isaac, a three-point specialist who averaged 20 points in his three years at Coppin, is considered a long shot to be drafted.
Isaac, who also was cut by the Spirit, wasn't invited to the Chicago combine and didn't play in any major postseason tournaments.
"He's talented, but he didn't get a chance to showcase himself in Portsmouth or Chicago," Schwartzman said. "We feel confident that he'll have an opportunity, but lack of exposure has really hurt him."
Players who are not drafted can shop around their services. Former Towson State star Kurk Lee made the New Jersey Nets roster that way last year.
"A lot of people say it's better if you're not drafted because you can choose what camps to go to," Stewart said. "While I'm trying not to think about the draft, I'm not worried. Just as long as I get a chance somewhere."
2. New Jersey
8. Denver (from Washington)
9. LA Clippers
12. New York
16. Golden State (from Philadelphia)
17. Golden State
19. Wash. (from Det. via Dallas, Denver)
22. Clippers (from Phoenix via Seattle)
23. Orlando (from San Antonio)
25. Golden State (from LA Lakers)
27. Sacramento (from Portland)