It was just supposed to work out this way for Mark Karcher.
The former Temple and St. Frances standout was selected yesterday by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 48th overall pick in the second round of the NBA draft, returning the shooting guard to the city where he spent three years of college.
But there's something, or rather someone, else far more important waiting for Karcher in the city of brotherly love - his daughter, Aria, 1, who has sickle-cell anemia and lives in Philadelphia with her mother.
Since he'll be on the East Coast, Karcher can be near his son, Equan, 2, who lives in Baltimore.
"It feels good, because I'll be close to my daughter and my son," said the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, reached at his grandmother's house in east Baltimore.
Karcher, projected as a possible late first-round pick by some publications as recently as a month ago, had to sweat it out before the 76ers made him their second and final pick.
With only 58 total picks in the draft, a mere 10 spots separated Karcher from unemployment.
Was he worried? "Not really," he said. "I just couldn't wait for my name to be called. I just waited and kept the faith."
Karcher led the Owls in scoring and three-point baskets the past two seasons. Last season as a junior, he averaged 15.8 points and 4.6 rebounds with a team-high 82 threes and was named first-team All-Atlantic 10. He had 27 points, six rebounds and four steals as the Owls were upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Seton Hall, 67-65.
Karcher announced he would declare himself eligible for the draft on April 12, skipping his final year at Temple. He cited the need to take care of his family.
"I made my decision with confidence," Karcher said. "I'm glad I made the decision I did."
Karcher was a three-time first team All-Metro selection at St. Frances, garnering Player of the Year honors his junior and senior years. He led the Panthers to three consecutive Catholic League titles and averaged close to 30 points and 10 rebounds during his senior year in 1996. The Panthers were 97-23 in Karcher's four years.
He was named a McDonald's All-American in his senior season and scored eight points for an East squad that included Marcus Fizer, the fourth player taken in last night's draft by the Chicago Bulls.
After sitting out his freshman year at Temple due to academic ineligibility, Karcher averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds his sophomore season and hit a team-high 67 three-pointers.
Now, he will return to Philadelphia and First Union Center, where he used to go with friends to watch Allen Iverson and the 76ers.
"I was in Philly, and I watched them all year," Karcher said. "I like Coach [Larry] Brown and his style of coaching."
Karcher can use his large frame to muscle his way inside, providing a nice complement to his deft outside touch. But he lacks the explosiveness of a Courtney Alexander, raising questions of how effective he can be at shooting guard on the NBA level.
"That's just something that I have to work on, something that I have to prove - that I can score," Karcher said.
Two other Baltimore players - Miami's Johnny Hemsley and St. John's Bootsy Thornton - entered the draft, but neither was selected.
Hemsley, a 6-5, 195-pound shooting guard and two-time All-Metro selection at Southern High, averaged 18.1 points and 3.6 rebounds last year for the Hurricanes, scoring 20 points or more 13 times. He was named second team All-Big East, leading Miami to a share of the conference's regular-season championship and a trip to the Sweet 16.
Thornton averaged 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.4 steals for the Red Storm, earning the 6-4, 195-pound shooting guard third-team All-Big East honors.
Thornton was All-Metro in 1994 and part of three straight state champions at Dunbar.