Star-Bulletin Sports


Thursday, June 27, 2002


[ THE NBA ]



Savovic
gets snubbed

But several teams
are still interested


By Cindy Luis
cluis@starbulletin.com

It was midnight in New York and Predrag Savovic's NBA Draft dreams had gone the way of Cinderella's coach.

Yet, the hot-shooting guard from the University of Hawaii wasn't worried. Less than an hour after the 58 picks were announced in Madison Square Garden, Savovic's agent, Marc Cornstein, was getting phone calls from more than 12 teams who liked his 26-year-old client and wanted to bring him in to free-agent camp.

"I know all the people in Hawaii were hoping for a 'local boy' to get drafted and I'm sorry that it didn't work out that way today," Savovic said. "I wasn't disappointed. It was an exciting day and I know I did everything in my power to make it happen.

"I'll be well. My dream was to settle in the NBA and I think I have the mind and body for that. Right now, I'm going to relax a little and then see what I will do with my life. But I want to thank the people in Hawaii for having so much faith in me. It's a pleasure to represent Hawaii and Yugoslavia, my two homes."

Going into yesterday's draft, Savovic had guaranteed contracts from three of the top European teams. Although Cornstein would not reveal the club names, he said one was from Italy, the others from Russia and Israel.

"Sure, it's disappointing when you have a player as mature and proven as Predrag, that his name wasn't called," Cornstein said. "He worked out for 15 teams, he was one of the top players in Chicago and one of the top collegiate players in the draft. Still, he had no control over what was going to happen.

"It was similar to when he was suspended for the seven games of this season. He was helpless to do anything. The reality is, tonight it's lousy, but tomorrow you wake up and look at all the options. He has a lot of doors he can open."

Both Cornstein and Rainbow coach Riley Wallace said that, in some ways, not being drafted was better than being a second-round pick.

"This way, he can select the team that needs your talents," said Wallace, who flew to New York to be with Savovic. "I was disappointed for him because he works so hard to put himself in a position to be drafted.

"The reports I got from everyone was that he might go in the late first round but he was a lock for the second. I have no idea why he slipped through. It was my first time at the draft and it was nerve-racking."

Bob Nash knows the feeling. But 30 years ago, the Rainbow associate head coach didn't have to wait long on draft day; he was the seventh pick overall of the 1972 draft (Detroit Pistons).

"It was very surprising to me that Savo wasn't drafted," said Nash, who kept up on the draft via the Internet. "The guy had great workouts, represented himself well, is a good citizen. The only negative thing was his age, but he was a guy who could step right in and play."

Yesterday, other members of the UH basketball coaching staff and former players Mindaugas Burneika and Mike McIntyre gathered at Eastside Grill to watch the telecast live. Hopes were high through the first 90 minutes but began to wane as the draft show dragged into its fourth hour.

First, the groans were over Fresno State center Melvin Ely being picked No. 12. ("Hey, ask him about the Hawaii game this year," one spectator yelled at the television set, referring to the Rainbows' 82-79 win last March at Fresno that gave Hawaii a share of the regular-season Western Athletic Conference title.)

Then, Washington used the No. 17 pick for Maryland guard Juan Dixon. ("Savo destroyed him in Chicago," was the comment.)

When Miami guard John Salmons, a second-team all-Big East pick, was selected No. 26 by San Antonio, the asides became more caustic. ("You would think that the No. 26 pick in the draft would at least be a first-team Big East selection.")

The only time Savovic appeared on the draft show was in a videoclip of the 2001 loss by Hawaii at Fresno State. Featured was Bulldog guard Tito Maddox, the No. 38 choice by Houston.

The group held out until the final pick -- Corsley Edwards, Central Connecticut State -- then headed back to campus.

"I'm surprised about Savo," said Burneika, who expects to be playing in Europe this fall. "But he has good contracts to play in Europe. I'm happy and sad. Sad for my friend Savo and happy for my friend Darius."

Wake Forest's Darius Songaila, a fellow Lithuanian, was the No. 50 pick, by Boston.



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