University of Maryland center Obinna Ekezie will start his NBA career as far from College Park as possible, but he'll see some familiar faces when he gets to Vancouver.
The Grizzlies selected the 6-foot-10 Ekezie in the second round, 37th overall in last night's NBA draft at MCI Center. He will join Maryland teammate Steve Francis, who was the Grizzlies' first-round pick, and former Terrapins center Tony Massenburg.
"I'm happy. It was a long wait, but I'm kind of relieved," Ekezie said, yelling over the phone above the excited voices of friends and family who gathered at his sister's apartment in Greenbelt. "I know other guys on the team and I'll be happy out there."
Maryland guard Laron Profit, a two-time honorable mention all-American who averaged 14.5 points per game for the Terrapins, followed Ekezie in the draft. He was picked No. 38 by the Orlando Magic.
"I'm happy. If I had to go to anybody after the first round, I would want to go to Orlando," Profit said last night from his home in Dover, Del. "I love the city and Coach [Doc] Rivers. I feel I can play at the number two [shooting guard] or number three [small forward] spot, or I can back up at the point."
Profit finished his college career ranked 10th in school history with 1,566 points and is one of only eight Terrapins to score at least 1,500 points and grab at least 500 rebounds (572).
Waiting until the second round was hard for Profit, who had a house full of family and friends anticipating his selection.
"I was trying to figure out who all these guys were that were going ahead of me," het said. "I was going through my basketball almanac."
Louis Bullock, a 6-2 guard who played for Laurel Baptist before his four-year career at the University of Michigan, was picked 42nd overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sources close to the Timberwolves organization said the team was trying to work a trade with the Orlando Magic, but as of last night the deal was not finalized.
Virginia Tech 6-6 guard-forward Eddie Lucas was the last pick in the draft at No. 58 to the Utah Jazz.
Ekezie's senior season at Maryland was cut short when he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in practice on Feb. 9. He finished as Maryland's 24th all-time leading scorer with 1,072 career points and averaged 12.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a senior.
"I would have liked to have gone in the first round, but I'm working hard and trying to get myself ready," Ekezie said. "The [Achilles'] is almost there, all I have to do is complete a few more weeks of rehab. I'm not doing full contact yet, but I'm on the court, I'm lifting weights and I'm running on the treadmill."
Maryland Coach Gary Williams said he thought Ekezie and Profit would be able to contribute immediately to their teams.
"I think for both of them this is a great opportunity," Williams said. "Obinna's injury was a serious one and I'm happy he was drafted. I have every confidence he will make it. Laron has got a pro game. He's got quickness and leaping ability and he's a good defensive player."
Old Dominion 6-10 senior forward Cal Bowdler was selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the No. 17 pick. The Tappahannock, Va., native, was a first team all-Colonial Athletic Association pick, who led the league in rebounding (10.0 per game) and posted 10 double-doubles. Bowdler, who attended Rappahannock High, was not in Washington for the draft.