Mardesich centers attention on making NBA impression

7-foot former Terp playing for Wizards' summer team

July 26, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Like a singer getting an audition at Carnegie Hall, Mike Mardesich so wanted things to go perfectly last week during his tryout for the big time in the NBA's Shaw Summer Pro League.

Mardesich's performance with the Washington Wizards' team of rookies, young veterans and free agents was somewhere north of a lounge act and somewhere south of Pavarotti, meaning his path to the bright lights of an NBA arena probably got a little longer.

"Personally, I don't think I'm doing so great," said Mardesich after Saturday's game, in which he went scoreless, missing all six shots in 16 minutes, with one rebound. "I had a terrible shooting performance. I just couldn't get my rhythm. Otherwise, I think I'm playing decent. I think I've been giving a lot of energy on defense. It's just a case where I haven't really gotten my feel. But we'll see what happens."

For every blue-chip player like the Wizards' first-round draft choices, Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon, who came to the weeklong, 10-team tournament looking to work on certain parts of their respective games, there were five or more players like Mardesich.

Mardesich was a key member of the 2000-01 Maryland team that reached the Final Four, looking for a chance to prove itself.

Among the 130 players at the University of Massachusetts' Clark Athletic Center were names such as Theo Ratliff, who played in the NBA Finals two years ago with the Philadelphia 76ers and is now coming back from injury with the Atlanta Hawks. Or ex-Utah forward Quincy Lewis, who got sparse playing time with the Jazz and is trying to latch on with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Then there are has-beens like former Connecticut guard Khalid El-Amin, who washed out in Chicago with the Bulls and is attempting to latch on with the Timberwolves. Or Oliver Miller, who wore out his welcome and his uniform in Phoenix with the Suns and is trying a comeback with the Boston Celtics.

Mardesich isn't the only ex-Terp out to make an impression. Rodney Elliott, the ex-Dunbar star who played in the now-defunct International Basketball League and in Europe, as well as getting a 2000 tryout with the Celtics, averaged just over six points with the San Antonio Spurs' entry in the Shaw League.

Byron Mouton, who played with Mardesich in 2000 and with Dixon on this year's national championship team, was invited to the Wizards' minicamp, which preceded the summer league, but was cut by Washington before league play opened.

As often happens to players who aren't already on active NBA rosters, Mardesich, a 7-foot center, appeared to be caught in a double numbers crunch.

Not only do the Wizards already have a crop of talented, young, big players, such as Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, Kwame Brown and Jeffries, who all got the lion's share of playing time here, but the team also invited former North Carolina big man Kris Lang to Boston.

So even after Haywood and Thomas went home after last Thursday's game, missing the final two contests, Mardesich still had to battle Lang for time. Lang got the start in both games over the weekend, but sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee early in Saturday's 84-80 loss to the Spurs, appearing to open the door for Mardesich to impress.

Instead, he appeared to press, taking quick shots and looking flustered and frustrated.

"You always want to impress," said Mardesich. "I feel like I did a great job in the time that we had in D.C., and now it's just a case where I have to relax and realize that it's just another game. Just play my game and not worry about it."

In Sunday's finale against the New York Knicks, Mardesich again backed up Lang, and seemed more relaxed, scoring a basket and grabbing five rebounds in 16 minutes.

"Mike just has to get in a comfort zone," said Dixon. "He had some opportunities to play some big minutes. I don't think Mike made a lot of plays like Mike Mardesich is capable of making or like he wanted to make. He wasn't able to hit a couple of shots, and he got down.

"But Mike is a great player to have in the locker room. He knows the game well. He's a great passer, and he's the type of guy that a lot of teams can use. Hopefully, things will work out for him."

In all likelihood, Mardesich, who played in Germany last season, averaging 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds, was probably playing as much to impress the scouts from European and Asian teams as to get an invitation to some NBA camp in October.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can," said Mardesich. "Realistically, you just want to impress as many people as you can. If it's not the Wizards, maybe it's somebody else. There are a ton of scouts here, and you just try and get the best possible situation. That's all."

Said Wizards assistant Brian James, who ran the team in Boston: "He has to find the right situation that's best for him. His attitude has been great, and he works extremely hard as well.

"He's been well-taught. The guy's got good fundamental skills. If he keeps dedicated to the sport, it just takes a break with one team that needs post players at a specific time. If it's not this year in Washington, who's to say that it's not two years down the road where the kid keeps improving?"

If Mardesich is daunted, it appears to be temporary, as he seems to take the approach that it takes most people more than one audition before they find their names on a marquee.

"I'm going to be playing somewhere. I just haven't made up my mind on where it's going to be," said Mardesich. "I had a really successful year last year in Germany, and we'll just see what happens. Hopefully, I can crack somebody's camp and show somebody something there. You never know. Right now, it's kind of early. We'll just see what happens."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.