Before being picked, 2 Terps wait a second

Ekezie, Profit miss out on first round, but still happy to be drafted

July 01, 1999|By Christian Ewell and Mike Klingaman | Christian Ewell and Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Yes, that was Maryland's Steve Francis with bitter beer face after being selected with the second pick in the NBA draft.

But if you think Francis had it rough, try on the shoes of fellow Terp Laron Profit, who lingered until nearly 11 p.m. before being taken in the second round, the 38th pick, by the Orlando Magic.

Late as it came, there was relief just the same, as Profit heard the screams from inside his home in Dover, Del., when he was picked.

"I'm happy to be going there," he said. "I'm just glad they had the confidence to take me."

Profit was taken one place behind another former teammate, Obinna Ekezie, who, like Francis, was selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies.

Champagne flowed at Ekezie's apartment in Greenbelt, where family and friends had huddled to watch the draft.

"It's absolutely electric here," said Ekezie's father, Obie Sr. "We held our breath for 2 1/2 hours."

While the rest of his entourage viewed the draft on the living room television, Ekezie retreated to his bedroom to watch it.

"Around the 25th pick, I had to go upstairs and make sure [Obinna] was still alive," his father said.

"The tension was killing me," the former Maryland center said. "When they called my name, everyone ran into my room and hugged me.

"I just consider myself a lucky, lucky man. Vancouver is a great opportunity for me; they need a power forward."

Ekezie, who is from Nigeria, said he is eager to prove he is fully recovered from the torn Achilles' tendon that cut short his senior season at Maryland.

"I'll fly down there tomorrow and show them what I can do," he said. "I don't even have a [Grizzlies] cap yet. But I love it to death that Steve and I are both going there -- and that Tony [Massenburg, also a former Terp] is there, too. We can really do some stuff together."

Profit joins a team that finished second in the Atlantic Division behind Miami, but also one that seems healthy at the positions that Profit wishes to inhabit. At small forward, the Magic have Matt Harpring, and either Anfernee Hardaway or Nick Anderson would be tough to beat out for a starting role at shooting guard.

"I'll just go out there and give it 150 percent," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

While another local hopeful -- Lake Clifton High alum and George Washington star Shawnta Rogers -- had a 5-foot-4 stature working against him and wasn't drafted, Profit had reason to believe that he would go relatively early.

Profit, who had worked out for four teams in the last week, said he thought that he might go in the first round on the strength of strong performances at postseason camps in Chicago and Phoenix.

At about 9: 45 p.m., however, Profit still hadn't heard from anyone. He'd watched the Knicks pick up Frederic Weis, a 7-2 center from France who hadn't even worked out for any NBA teams. But he intended to keep watching.

"Go figure," Profit said at that point, sitting with a group of friends and relatives congregated to share this day with him. "There's a lot of people here. I just want to hear my name called. Whatever happens, we'll just roll with it."

The chants started not long afterward in the MCI Center. Incited by the Golden State Warriors' choice of Southwest Texas State product Jeff Foster, bellows of "Profit, Profit" burst forth from what remained of the crowd.

Next were the Houston Rockets, who witnessed a Profit workout last Friday. Houston general manager Carroll Dawson praised the 6-5 guard, who showed up despite suffering from a hip pointer.

Dawson said that with the Rockets' other picks at the 44 and 50 spots, their chances of getting Profit rested with the 22nd pick. And still Kenny Thomas, New Mexico.

Then, Devean George of Division III Augsburg (Minn.) College, and a couple of 18-year-olds -- Andrei Kirilenko of Moscow and Leon Smith of Chicago -- were among those taken at the end of the first round. Profit, with 1,566 points for the Terps and three All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors, was left on the outside looking in.

"I really don't understand," Profit said. "Obviously [the NBA teams] feel like those guys are better. I'm just going to have to prove them wrong again."

His college coach, Gary Williams, said he likes his chances of doing exactly that, seeing no particular reason to be alarmed by Profit's draft position.

"That was the forecast," Williams said. "The big thing is that he's going to get the opportunity to make it. Then you have to prove it. I think he's got a great chance because he has the athletic ability to make it in the NBA."

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