Making his run at NBA

Pro basketball: After a season in the new International Basketball League, players like the BayRunners' Rodney Elliott are lining up their shot at the big time.

Pro Basketball

June 24, 2000|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

It's been close to two months since Rodney Elliott took off his BayRunners uniform for what, if things go right for him, could be the last time.

The replacement? It could come in the form of a man leaning on a cane twirling a basketball, the signature logo of the storied Boston Celtics, the team Elliott and fellow BayRunners teammate Mark Blount worked out with last week.

The end of the BayRunners' season marked the beginning of the NBA tryout season for Elliott and many fellow International Basketball League standouts aspiring to play the game on the highest level.

Step one for Elliott started with a three-day stint last week in Boston, the final workout for free agents before teams turned their attention to Wednesday's draft in Minneapolis.

"It went well," Elliott said of his workout. "Nothing is etched in stone, but I will probably play on their summer league team."

Many of the IBL's standouts in its inaugural season have been invited to participate in NBA camps this summer, a trend IBL director of basketball operations George Blaney is pleased about.

Elliott and his colleagues will try to turn these summertime basketball chances into a training camp shot in the NBA.

The IBL champion St. Louis Swarm sent a host of players to different camps, including leading scorer and Rookie of the Year Danny Johnson.

"NBA scouts were all over our games," Blaney said. "We were in constant contact. As we are getting closer to the draft, we are getting more interest.

"We've always wanted to help our players, coaches, administrators and trainers move forward."

So the IBL has done its part in sending out scouting reports on individual players as well as game footage. Of course, this is not the first shot for many of these players, Elliott included. Since graduating from Maryland in 1998, Elliott has had workouts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and Celtics.

Elliott played a year in Belgium before he became the BayRunners' Most Valuable Player last season, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.

He won an IBL Player of the Week award in mid-January, and scored more than 25 points five times.

Playing in the IBL was, according to Clippers scout Jim Mitchell, a good move for Elliott. Mitchell said he has seen an improvement in Elliott's game, especially in his shooting range.

Mitchell scouted Elliott coming out of Maryland, went to a few BayRunners' games and kept in contact with coach Terry Truax throughout the season.

"He really helped himself as a prospect," Mitchell said. "Anytime you compete against guys daily, it is going to make you better. The IBL and CBA [Continental Basketball Association] gives you that. Rodney could have made more money going overseas, but he made the right decision by staying here to play.

"He's improved his perimeter game, that 18-footer. He was more of a slicer in college."

At 6 feet 8, 235 pounds, Elliott fits the mold of a small forward. The range is there, but to get to the next level, Mitchell said he will need to improve his rebounding and defense.

Many players at that position in the NBA - Indiana's Jalen Rose, Portand's Scottie Pippen, Miami's Jamal Mashburn and New York's Latrell Sprewell, to name a few - possess those multi-dimensional skills and have the ability to put the ball on the floor, post up or shoot from the outside.

"Rodney has a good understanding of the game," Truax said. "We feel he has NBA potential. I know it would be a loss for us but a gain for him professionally."

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