The closer it gets to Wednesday's NBA draft, the more Eric Montross is reminded that a 7-foot, 275-pound body and a North Carolina basketball pedigree do not guarantee lottery status.
Some scouts consider Montross the best center among this year's draft candidates. Yet Montross admitted that opinions are so varied that he could be drafted "anywhere between spots four dTC and 10."
Why the disparity? The center position probably is the most difficult for NBA scouts to gauge. Seven-footers seemingly with NBA potential such as Dwayne Schintzius, Chris Washburn, Tito Horford and William Bedford have been draft busts.
Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Benoit Benjamin, Bedford, Stacey King, Felton Spencer and Luc Longley all have been lottery-pick centers who washed out or, at best, became long-term projects.
NBA director of scouting Marty Blake, in fact, has compared Montross' talent level with that of Dallas backup Greg Dreiling, a career 2-point-per-game scorer.
"People have their opinions," Montross said. "I've always been of the opinion that you stick with the percentages. I'd say when you've got nine out of 10 who believe you can play and believe you're good enough, that's what you look at."
But because of Blake's stature, the Dreiling comparison, made late during Montross' senior season, seems destined to stick with him. At least until Montross proves otherwise.
"Sure, he's got a big name, and certainly, I don't want to bad-mouth him," Montross said. "But I'm not sure that he knows my capabilities that a lot of people do who may draft me. . . . I've never spoken with him. Maybe he didn't like my haircut."
Montross, perhaps more than the other lottery candidates, has had to sell himself the past few weeks. His mobility and shooting range are questions, so when Montross works out for teams, he takes a lot of 12- to 15-foot jumpers.
When Montross worked out in Philadelphia, the Sixers wanted to know whether he could also play power forward.
"I think I could," Montross said. "Obviously, it would be a different position than I'm used to. But I've never shied away from a challenge that's reasonable. And I think that's a reasonable challenge."
When teams sit down with Montross to find out about his character, they quickly discover that the uncertainty about his draft status has not affected his outlook.
"The way I've looked at it is I know more about myself than anybody else," Montross said. "I don't need to read about myself to know what's going on. The confidence I have has always outweighed any negatives I've read."
Although Montross' scoring average fell from 15.8 points his junior year to 13.6 points last season, his four-year shooting percentage (.585) indicates he probably could have scored more in a less restrictive system. But Montross also is aware that every draft seems to have at least one highly regarded player who slips because teams are afraid to take a chance on him.
"I haven't got time to worry about that," Montross said. "I think I've done well with the workouts I've provided to the teams. If I drop, I drop."
NBA DRAFT ORDER
The selection order for the first round of the 1994 NBA draft, to be held Wednesday in Indianapolis:
7. Los Angeles Clippers
10. Los Angeles Lakers
11. Seattle (from Charlotte)
14. New Jersey
16. Golden State (from Cleveland)
18. Milwaukee (from Orlando)
19. Dallas (from Golden State)
20. Philadelphia (from Utah)
22. San Antonio
24. New York
25. LA Clippers (from Atlanta)
26. New York (from Houston via Atlanta)
27. Orlando (from Seattle via LA Clippers)