True to word, Thomas takes Camby Former UMass star heads north of border to Raptors

June 27, 1996|By BOSTON GLOBE

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It pays to trust a guy named Isiah with a prophecy.

Marcus Camby did. Despite late-minute talk to the contrary, the former University of Massachusetts star center took Toronto Raptors general manager Isiah Thomas at his word when Thomas said a couple of weeks ago that "Marcus Camby is a Raptor," meaning the team would select him as the second overall choice in last night's NBA draft.

Thomas came through on his statement, making Camby Toronto's second-ever first round pick. The move contradicted much speculation that the Raptors would select Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who they expressed much interest in after the former California center re-entered the draft pool.

"I had a gut feeling it was going to be Toronto," said a teary-eyed Camby, who clutched the Raptors' multi-colored jersey with the No. 21, the same number he wore at UMass. "Isiah gave his word, and I was thinking about what he said [a couple of weeks ago], so I had that gut feeling I was going there.

"I slept fine last night. I'm fine right now. I was projected to go No. 2 and that's where I went. It is just a big dream come true right now. It's something that you dream about when you are little kid. I'm just happy that is is a reality right now."

Abdur-Rahim went right after Camby, to the Vancouver Grizzlies.

As the second overall pick, Camby will receive $2.03 million this season, $2.33 million his second season and $2.6 million his third season. All in US currency, mind you.

Camby said that the selection caps a year of ups and downs, one where he was named consensus national player of the year and led UMass to its first-ever trip to the Final Four. He also fought off setbacks, including an unexplained collapse on Jan. 14 prior to the UMass-St. Bonaventure game and recently was quoted in the Hartford Courant as admitting taking cash from agents.

"[The agents controversy] hasn't really bothered me much; I had my mind set on the draft, and where I was going," said Camby. "All the other stuff didn't affect me. I took things in stride and I just waited for this day to happen, and I'm more excited for my family than myself."

"I'm real proud. People back in Hartford, they all doubted me. They wrote negative stuff about me. I took all that in stride. I know the real people who love me back home and those are the ones who are really happy."

Camby left UMass after his junior season, becoming the first Minuteman to leave early under former head coach John Calipari.

"My college life is over, but I'll never forget those guys at UMass; they will always be in my heart and mind," said Camby. "Hopefully they will do well, but I'm about to go on to something different, something more difficult."

Raptors officials were attempting to get Camby to throw out the first pitch in tomorrow night's Blue Jays-Mariners game, but scheduling conflicts prohibited it. "I think it's a great town and I can see myself playing there for a long time," said Camby. "The people in Toronto just made me feel so welcome there. The media has been great and they have taken a liking to me up there. I can just picture myself out there on the court."

Camby still doesn't know what position he will play, although he speculates he will be a small forward/power forward. But he said that doesn't matter. "Just put me out there on the floor, and let me play," he said.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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