Strong tourneys improve Burns' shot in first round Guard Cassell looks to prove point

June 27, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Even though he had posted respectable numbers in his two years as a starter for the Maryland Terrapins, one of the last things on Evers Burns' mind after finishing his college career was that he would be watching the first round of the NBA draft with keen interest.

"No way," Burns said last week. "But, given the opportunity to show what I could do, I knew I could do well."

That opportunity came in April in two postseason all-star tournaments. Burns earned all-tournament honors in both. And Wednesday in Auburn Hills, Mich., the former Woodlawn High School star may hear his name as a first-round selection.

Burns, who worked out for the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, won't be the only Baltimore-area player keeping a close watch on the draft.

Former Dunbar guard Sam Cassell, who helped lead Florida State to the final eight this past season, also could wind up a first-round pick.

Should either go among the top 27 selections, it would mark the first time that a Baltimore-area player was picked in the first round since 1987, when Reggie Williams, Muggsy Bogues and Reggie Lewis were top picks. A player from the state of Maryland hasn't been a first-round pick since 1990, when Jerrod Mustaf was drafted by the New York Knicks.

Burns, who three months ago was at best a long shot to even be an NBA draft pick, was able to impress the scouts and improve his stock by making the all-tournament teams at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational (21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) and the Phoenix Desert Classic (13.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg). A center for much of his career at Maryland, Burns, 6 feet 8, 263 pounds, excelled while playing small and power forward, positions better suited for his size.

Although confident in his ability, even Burns was at first surprised by how well he played at the tournaments.

"I was on the waiting list for the [Portsmouth] camp, and then I dominated it," Burns said. "I came into that camp in the best shape possible. I had 25 points the first game, and that just boosted my confidence."

That performance got Burns a late invitation to Phoenix. There he was equally impressive, shooting 63 percent from the field and displaying an accurate 12- to 15-foot jumper.

"I knew I could play," said Burns, whose 36-point game against Georgia Tech this past season was the top individual scoring performance in the Atlantic Coast Conference. "I felt there was more I could do with my game in the pro style."

While Burns has visited the Cavaliers (22nd pick in the first round) and the Bulls (25th pick in the first round and 41st pick overall), other teams also have expressed an interest after his impressive performances in the two tournaments. Burns has no idea where he might go in the draft.

"I feel I will get drafted, but when and by who, I don't know," said Burns, who will watch the Wednesday's draft with his family at his home in Woodlawn. "I have a real good feeling. This draft is so funny, you just don't know who's going where."

Cassell, who averaged 18.3 points and 4.9 assists during his senior year at Florida State, could go in the first round but will more than likely be a second-round pick. Bobby Hurley, J. R. Rider, Allan Houston and Terry Dehere are among the six or seven point guards rated ahead of Cassell, but perhaps a team like Orlando (26th pick), which could use a backup to Scott Skiles, might risk a late first-round pick.

A 1988 graduate of Dunbar High School, Cassell, who could not be reached for comment, was primarily a shooting guard for the Seminoles, but his size (6-3, 195 pounds) will limit him to playing the point in the NBA. An overabundance of point guards left Cassell playing shooting guard at the Phoenix Desert Classic, where he made five of 16 from the field in three games.

Cassell, who shot just 50.2 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range in his last year at Florida State, did a good job at the point when Charlie Ward went out with an injury last season. His quickness and his ability to create off the dribble will make him attractive to teams looking for a point guard.

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