John Gilchrist celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday knowing he at least will have an opportunity to play in the NBA.
The former Maryland point guard, who went undrafted on Tuesday, has accepted an invitation to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers in their Las Vegas summer league, his agent, Joel Bell, said yesterday.
"I do not doubt that he is an NBA player, and a good NBA player," Bell said. "I believed that a month ago, and I believe that now."
Bell described Gilchrist, who spent draft night with his family in Virginia Beach, as having "good spirits," even though he was passed over for less heralded guards in the second round, including Duke's Daniel Ewing, Marquette's Travis Diener and high school senior Louis Williams.
"He's puzzled, and almost to the point where it's laughable" that he was not chosen, Bell said. "He has the attitude, 'Okay, this is crazy, let's go show them.' "
Gilchrist performed well enough in Chicago's pre-draft camp earlier this month to be selected among the first 10 picks in the second round, a source familiar with the NBA's discussions involving Gilchrist said Monday. But Gilchrist's off-court issues, including his poor relationship with Maryland Coach Gary Williams, severely hampered his status, the source said.
Had Gilchrist turned pro following his sophomore season, in which he was named MVP of the 2004 ACC tournament, he likely would have been chosen, perhaps even in the first round. But Gilchrist said last month that he did not regret returning to school for his junior year because he did not feel at the time he was ready for the grind of an 82-game NBA schedule. Gilchrist said he knew at the beginning of his junior year that he would leave school following the season.
At least five NBA teams called Bell during the draft expressing interest in inviting Gilchrist to their summer league. Bell said he spoke to Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown and General Manager Danny Ferry after the draft. Gilchrist, who will report to Cleveland on Sunday, accepted the Cavaliers' invitation, Bell said, because they showed the most interest and afforded the player the best chance to make an NBA regular season roster.
The Cavaliers are expected to purge much of their roster to create salary cap room that would allow them to sign high-caliber free agents to complement star LeBron James. They are expected to renounce the rights to guards Jeff McInnis and Dajuan Wagner, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, and they currently have only seven players under contract.
Last month, Gilchrist said he would be willing to initially play overseas if he were not drafted, saying that he still would be able to support his infant daughter and longtime girlfriend. But he expected to eventually have an NBA career that lasted many years.
Gilchrist acknowledged last month that NBA personnel asked him mostly about his relationship with Williams, not about his game.
"There is nothing they can really ask about my game," Gilchrist said at the time. "They know I can play. All they can really ask me about is Gary."