Draft day went exactly as expected for Jerrod Mustaf, a comforting change from his two-year University of Maryland career, which brought more than its share of surprises and disappointments.
Just as he had anticipated, Mustaf went to the New York Knickerbockers on the 17th pick of the first round. He was the third underclassman selected, behind third pick Chris Jackson and No. 4 Dennis Scott.
"This time, it is good not to have any surprises," Mustaf said from his father's home in Greenbelt, where he watched the draft on television. "I'd gotten so used to bad things happening, this is a welcome relief."
Mustaf's former Terrapins teammate, Tony Massenburg, also was selected close to his projections. The San Antonio Spurs took Massenburg midway through the second round, the 43rd selection.
"I just wanted to get picked," Massenburg said from his family's Sussex, Va., home. "I wasn't going to be choosy about this."
Massenburg, who averaged 18 points and 10.1 rebounds a game his senior year, had expected beforehand to be taken by Philadelphia, Minnesota or Miami. But the 76ers selected Georgia Tech's Brian Oliver with the 32nd pick, and Miami opted for Virginia Tech's Bimbo Coles on the 40th selection.
So Massenburg instead joined a pair of large question marks -- Dwayne Schintzius of Florida and Sean Higgins from Michigan -- in the Spurs' draft class.
Arlington native Walter Palmer, a two-time all-Ivy League center at Dartmouth and a former All-Met at Washington-Lee High School, was unexpectedly selected by Utah in the second round at No. 33.
In his senior season at Dartmouth, Palmer (7 feet 1, 220 pounds) averaged 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks despite being limited to an average of 23 minutes per game because of a back (disk) injury that prevented him from practicing.
Georgetown guards Mark Tillmon and Dwayne Bryant were passed over in the two-round affair. Also unpicked was American's Ron Draper, who seemed to possess an outside chance of becoming a late second-round selection heading in.
Meanwhile, Mustaf's prognostications proved accurate. The Knicks were one of three teams to fly in Mustaf for face-to-face visits, and the 6-10 forward's perimeter skills made him the primary candidate to fill New York's top draft priority -- a front-line partner for Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley.
Despite persistent questions about his toughness and youth, much will be expected immediately from the 20-year-old. Mustaf may not start initially, but Knicks officials said they hope he'll be ready to contribute right away; they feel he might be the final ingredient needed to push the club into the NBA elite.
General Manager Al Bianchi said New York also considered Jayson Williams of St. John's and Duane Causwell of Temple for the pick, but settled on Mustaf because he "had the greatest upside.
"We picked a guy that can fulfill our needs, and a guy with true star potential," Bianchi told reporters in New York. "He's a fine talent, a good shooter with good skills. We got a future lottery pick with the 17th pick. . . . From what I understand, he's not the kind of kid who will mess that talent up. He's not a bad-attitude type."
Mustaf decided Tuesday not to travel to New York to be on hand for the proceedings. When his name was called by NBA Commissioner David Stern, some boos were heard among the 3,000 spectators at the Jacob Javits Center.
But Mustaf was undaunted; Knicks officials had warned him to be prepared for a possible negative reaction.
"It's a good situation for me," he said. "I wanted to be close to home, on the East Coast if I could. I wanted to be on an established team that could challenge for a championship in the near future. I wanted to be somewhere where I could play small forward and big forward instead of big forward and center.
"It was what I expected, and what I wanted . . . I think I can help them, and if I can give them what they're after, we'd have the kind of team that could challenge for a championship."
Bianchi may have been willing to gamble on Mustaf's youth because he just was given a three-year contract extension. In the days before the draft, scouts and personnel directors from a variety of NBA teams expressed an admiration for Mustaf's abilities but a fear of his inexperience and relatively tame demeanor.
Mustaf's decision to leave Maryland after his sophomore season -- stemming from the sanctions imposed on the Terrapins by the NCAA -- initially was criticized widely by professional scouts, who contended he was at least a year shy of being ready for the NBA.
But Mustaf's stock rose considerably at the league's three-day draft camp in Chicago earlier this month. Despite the absence of many of the best-regarded players eligible, Mustaf propelled himself into a projected first-round selection.
The former All-Met at DeMatha High School was the Terrapins' leading scorer (18.5 points per game) and second-leading rebounder (7.7) last season. He has promised his parents he will graduate from college within the next five years, but now a big payday is on the way as well.
But Mustaf said he was most excited about the chance to be in the New York spotlight and play with Ewing.
"I can remember when I played basketball in junior high, watching Patrick play at Georgetown. I watched his progression. I saw him move up and be the first pick in the NBA. I watched him excel.
"He's always been a player I admire. His toughness, the way he went out and competed every night. To have a chance to play with a guy like that, it means a lot. I haven't really had a chance to let things soak in, because I've been bombarded by phone calls. . . . Everything looks so good."
Staff writers David Aldridge and Marc Stein contributed to this report.