Jerrod Mustaf and Tony Massenburg did not have the simplest of college careers. As with dozens of their peers nationwide, the former University of Maryland teammates hope NBA draft day brings the onset of better -- not to mention more lucrative -- times.

The duo's prospects appear bright heading into tonight's proceedings at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. Both improved their stock significantly at the league's pre-draft player showcases, with Mustaf likely to be picked in the middle of the first round and Massenburg counting on an early to middle second-round selection.

Among the other eligible players with local ties, Georgetown guards Mark Tillmon and Dwayne Bryant are unlikely to be picked in the two-round draft. Virginia Tech's Bimbo Coles probably will be a second-round selection, and Virginia Union's A.J. English has emerged as a draft favorite and an almost certain first-round pick.

Georgia Tech's Dennis Scott, of Reston, who played at Flint Hill Academy, surely will go within the first three selections.

Sometime thereafter will come Mustaf and Massenburg, and the anticipation -- and anxiety -- are beginning to build.

"I'm starting to get excited, and I'm not too excited that often," Massenburg said yesterday. "It's the day you dream about." Massenburg said he plans to wait for the telephone to ring and watch the draft on television at his parents' home in Sussex, Va., and that chances are he will find himself a member of the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves or Philadelphia 76ers.

Mustaf, meanwhile, said last night he considered traveling to New York today to be on hand when his name is called -- a privilege reserved for a select few collegians extended invitations as the draft's expected headliners. But he'll stay home instead and watch his future unfold on TV with his father, Shaar.

Projections have Mustaf, whose decision to leave Maryland after his sophomore season initially was widely criticized by NBA scouts, being selected somewhere between No. 12 and No. 20.

"They're telling me somewhere in the middle of the first round," said Mustaf, a former All-Met at DeMatha High School. "I just think I'd like to stay close to home, or be on a team that's on TV a lot so my family can see me play . . . . I think I'd rather be on an established team than one that's building, but it's out of my hands at this point."

Mustaf announced in May he would enter the draft rather than return to Maryland, citing what he called the "wicked sanctions" imposed on the school by the NCAA. The 6-foot-10 forward, who led the Terps in scoring (18.5 points per game) and was second in rebounding (7.7) last season, could have transferred to another school -- but that would have carried the risk of sitting out a season if the NCAA reduces Maryland's penalties at its August appeal.

In the weeks leading up to his son's decision, Shaar Mustaf contacted 15 to 20 NBA coaches and general managers to assess his professional market value. Each person he contacted, Shaar Mustaf said, recommended that Jerrod remain in school.

In two years, the Mustafs were told, there would be the possibility of Jerrod being a lottery pick. Terps Coach Gary Williams lobbied for Mustaf to remain.

But it appears Mustaf's decision will prove beneficial nevertheless. Mustaf performed well at the league's three-day camp in Chicago earlier this month. Despite the absence of some big-name players, Mustaf leaped in the minds of most from a low first- or early second-round pick to his present in-demand status.

"He really helped himself" in Chicago, Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Frank Hamblen said. "He was probably the best forward there. He really came on the last two nights . . . . He may not be polished and prime time now by NBA standards, but that's because of his youth."

Mustaf said he feels vindicated. "When people said I'd be picked low or not at all, that motivated me," he said. "It feels good to bounce back in the face of criticism. I always have confidence in myself, so if I were a betting man, I would've bet on me all along."

The New York Knicks (who have the 17th pick), Minnesota (with the sixth and 20th) and Detroit, flew Mustaf in for face-to-face meetings; Boston (19th), Milwaukee (16th), Denver, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers (13th) also seemed interested, Mustaf said.

Massenburg, whose career was a seemingly ceaseless torment in which his team went through three suspensions and three coaches, averaged 18 points and a team-best 10.1 rebounds his senior season. He also projects as a small forward in the pro ranks -- though his 6-foot-9, 235-pound frame promises a more rugged style.

"I feel very comfortable with my outside shot and ballhandling," Massenburg said. "I'm not saying I'm a legitimate {small forward} now, but I don't think I'm that far away . . . . I know I can help someone."

Staff writer David Aldridge contributed to this report.