It's out of Francis' hands

With draft in June, wait-and-see time

April 15, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Now, it's Steve Francis' turn to play the waiting game.

The second-team All-American kept Maryland basketball fans in doubt this winter before he finally did the expected and passed on his final season of college eligibility to enter his name in the NBA draft.

Now, Francis must wait for the draft lottery May 22 to see which teams hold the top picks and which ones are willing to maneuver for a shot at a multitalented guard who is projected to play the point in the NBA.

After the lottery, Francis will work out privately for a handful of prospective employers, then wait some more, for the June 30 draft.

In the interim, Francis is taking a couple of courses at Maryland and settling into the rhythms of life as a professional athlete, a path that was formalized Monday when he agreed to be represented by Jeff Fried, an attorney and certified public accountant whose firm will handle his legal and commercial affairs.

After Maryland's season ended abruptly in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, the telephone rang endlessly at the Silver Spring home of

Francis' grandmother. Callers were not just interested in whether the Terps' junior guard was turning pro; many wanted to represent him.

"I was contacted by over 100 agents," Francis said. "I talked to 10. People tried to make themselves an agent off of me. I was called by people who had just gotten out of college, looking to get a start. You know how college recruiting goes? It was just like that."

Francis spoke yesterday at the downtown Washington office of Fried, who admittedly doesn't have much experience with the NBA, but does have 15 years in sports and entertainment law and a client list that includes former world heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe, a promotion company and Syracuse's American Hockey League team.

The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement standardizes rookie contracts, and negotiations are now fairly cut and dried.

"Steve's drafted; in year one, he'll earn X and year two he'll earn Y," Fried said. "There are a few potential areas of modification, some bonus scales that can be included."

Fried said that his firm, which includes eight full-time employees, is negotiating endorsement opportunities for Francis, but declined to say with whom. Fried said Francis has wide appeal as a 22-year-old who overcame a series of setbacks as a teen-ager to lead Maryland to as high as a No. 2 ranking this past season.

Francis' management team also includes longtime friend Nate Peake, the manager of WBA super-lightweight champion Sharmba Mitchell, like Francis a product of Takoma Park. In the past, Francis' conditioning efforts have taken him to Mitchell's gym.

"He [Mitchell] told us after one day in the gym," Peake said, "that Steve should not quit his basketball job."

Gaines mulls decision

Maryland continues to wait on a decision by Reece Gaines, a 6-foot-5 guard from Madison, Wis., who is considering the Terps and Louisville. Gaines was in Washington last week for the Capital Classic, and will be in Louisville on April 24 for the Kentucky Derby all-star game.

The Terps have just nine scholarship players, including three incoming freshmen, lined up for next season.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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