Wizards Grab Young, From USC, at No. 16

Nick Young
USC guard Nick Young points out into the Madison Square Garden crowd after being picked 16th overall by the Wizards. (Toni L. Sandys - The Washington Post)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007

When Nick Young walked out of Verizon Center after attending a workout for the Washington Wizards on June 8, he had every reason to believe he would never wear Wizards colors again.

Projected as a possible top 13 pick in last night's NBA draft, Young was one of 15 prospects invited to New York for the event, and he was as surprised as anyone when he was still available when Washington's turn came to use the 16th pick.

"It's the draft so you never know what's going to happen," said the 6-foot-7, 200-pound Young, who averaged 17.5 points on 52.5 percent shooting as a junior last season at Southern California. "But it's a great opportunity for me and I'm very excited to come to Washington and play with some great players and some all-stars. Hopefully, I can learn from them.

Young is already familiar with Wizards all-star guard Gilbert Arenas. As a high schooler in Los Angeles, Young played on a summer league team coached by Gilbert Arenas Sr. and over the years, Young and the Arenas family crossed paths.

Young certainly noticed that Arenas was in the building for his workout at Verizon Center this month.

"Oh yeah, he was in there watching," Young said. "He probably had a word in there on making this happen."

The Wizards selected Young over a handful of other players whom they worked out, including point guard Javaris Crittenton, who was taken by the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 19. With the 47th overall pick, the Wizards chose 6-8 forward Dominic McGuire, who averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds as a junior at Fresno State last season.

The path to landing Young was cleared when the New Orleans Hornets (Julian Wright), Los Angeles Clippers (Al Thornton) and Detroit Pistons (Rodney Stuckey) each passed on Young immediately ahead of the Wizards.

"It was a very easy decision," Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards' president of basketball operations, said of landing Young. "We don't wait for the last second to make a decision. We discuss the draft and how it will play out for a month and half, if not longer. As the players get picked, we pluck them off our board and when we picked, he was by far the highest-rated player we had left."

Young, whose playing style has been compared to explosive Knicks guard Jamal Crawford, is described as an athletic wing player who can create shots off the dribble and can make jump shots from three-point range.

The Wizards have two free agent shooting guards in DeShawn Stevenson and Jarvis Hayes and are looking to add scoring punch to a bench that was the league's least productive last season.

If Young breaks into Coach Eddie Jordan's playing rotation, he will also break a recent trend for the team's draft picks. Last year's first-round pick, forward Oleksiy Pecherov, played in Ukraine last season and the second-round pick in 2006, forward Vladimir Veremeenko, will play at least one more season in Russia.

In 2004, Grunfeld traded the fifth overall pick in a deal that brought Antawn Jamison to Washington, and the team did not have a first round pick in 2005, when Grunfeld chose forward Andray Blatche in the second round.

Young's personal story is riveting. He flunked out of two Los Angeles high schools before finishing at Cleveland High School in Reseda, Calif., and his older brother was shot and killed. His life story is portrayed in a recently released documentary titled "Second Chance Season." Described as "outgoing" with "a great attitude" by Grunfeld, Young has already picked up a fan in Arenas.

"He can play," Arenas said via text message late last night. "He's going to help our bench out a lot."

Wizards Notes: The team announced that all five of its games in the Las Vegas summer league will be televised by Comcast SportsNet. The Wizards open summer league July 10 against the Sacramento and play through July 15.

The roster will likely consist of Pecherov, who is expected to sign a rookie contract after July 1, Young and McGuire, and free agents hoping to earn an invitation to training camp.

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