Jordan Likes What He Sees in Wizards' No. 1 Pick

Seven-foot Oleksiy Pecherov, the Wizards' first-round draft pick, gets acquainted with all-star guard Gilbert Arenas after practice yesterday.
Seven-foot Oleksiy Pecherov, the Wizards' first-round draft pick, gets acquainted with all-star guard Gilbert Arenas after practice yesterday. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Oleksiy Pecherov caught the ball on the wing, pivoted while reading the defense and zipped a pass to a cutting teammate, who laid it in for an easy two points.

Yesterday was the first time that Pecherov, the Washington Wizards' first-round pick in last week's NBA draft, ran the Princeton offense under the watchful eyes of Coach Eddie Jordan and his staff. The 20-year-old proved to be a quick study.

"Already it's easy for him," Jordan said. "You can see that he has basketball skills, that he's composed and that he's been taught the game of basketball in a professional scenario. He's going to pick the game up pretty well; he's going to pick the offense up pretty well."

Pecherov's learning process will continue as the Wizards' summer league squad prepares for the start of the Las Vegas Summer League on Thursday. The team will play five games in Las Vegas before going to Long Beach, Calif., to play four games July 14-19.

Pecherov, who was officially measured to stand 7 feet tall by team trainers, remains under contract to a team in Kiev, Ukraine. His contract has an $800,000 buyout option, and the Wizards would have to pay a portion of it for Pecherov to play for the team next season. He will be joined in summer league by second-year players Andray Blatche and Donell Taylor and by third-year center Peter John Ramos.

The roster also includes Roger Mason Jr., a Wheaton native and former Virginia guard who played last season in Israel, and 11 other hopefuls who will try to earn an invitation to training camp in October.

While many teams look to trades and free agency for a quick fix this summer, Jordan and President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld have stressed the importance of "improving from within," and there is no question that the future of the franchise will hinge in part on the development of Pecherov, Blatche and Taylor.

Blatche missed all of training camp and the preseason last fall while recovering from wounds he suffered in a shooting in September.

"I spent this whole year catching up, but I feel good now and I know that this is a very important summer for me," said Blatche, who appeared in 29 games as a rookie. "I want to earn some playing time next season. I'm in better condition. I've been working on my defense, my offense. I want to play physically. I want to be a leader."

The 7-3 Ramos, who was a second-round pick in 2004, could be facing a make-or-break summer. Ramos spent almost all of last season in the National Basketball Development League with Roanoke, where he averaged 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.

"It's going to be an important summer for him," Jordan said. "It's time for him to be productive."

Notes: Jordan said he has not yet signed a contract extension. . . . The Wizards will open summer league against Toronto and No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani on Thursday. . . . Gilbert Arenas watched yesterday morning's workout and chatted with Pecherov afterward. Arenas is preparing for U.S. national team tryouts, which begin July 19 in Las Vegas.

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