Terps' Strawberry taken at No. 59 by Suns; Wizards get USC's Young

The Baltimore Sun

D.J. Strawberry came close to being the NBA's answer to the NFL's "Mr. Irrelevant," the last player selected in the draft, and actually was on the fringe of not being chosen at all last night.

However, just after midnight, Strawberry, Maryland's leading scorer last season, was picked as the next-to-last selection in the second round of the NBA draft, the 59th choice overall.

Strawberry, a 6-foot-5 guard from Corona, Calif., was taken by the Phoenix Suns, who won the Pacific Division this past season but were knocked out in the Western Conference semifinals by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in six games.

Strawberry, who was in California last night and could not be reached for comment, was thought to be a late second-round prospect, with his best chance to make an NBA roster stemming from his ability to defend, a quality in short supply in Phoenix, which led the league in scoring but was eighth in points allowed.

"He's got really good speed in transition," Jay Bilas, a basketball analyst, said on ESPN last night. "He's a very versatile defender. He can guard a point [guard], he can guard a two [shooting guard]. He's even strong enough and, I think, athletic enough to guard a smaller three [small forward]. He can play the point. He's not a natural point guard, but he can handle it well enough to play the point. He's a tough kid, and a guy I think can make it on an NBA team and play in the league."

Strawberry, who averaged 14.9 points per game in leading the Terps to the NCAA tournament in 2006-07, reportedly tested as the best athlete coming out of the NBA's pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla., before working out for more than 10 teams.

Oddly enough, after his workout with the Washington Wizards last week, Strawberry said he liked Phoenix's workout session best because "it was all pretty much fast breaks. That's how I play."

Strawberry's road is likely to begin in the NBA's summer league, where teams send their draft choices, younger players and free agents trying to land a spot on a roster to play in a tournament-like setting.

Being selected last night likely means that Strawberry will be guaranteed a spot on Phoenix's training camp roster, as opposed to having to make a favorable impression during summer league games.

Strawberry, the son of former major league outfielder Darryl Strawberry, will still be seriously challenged to make the Suns' 15-man roster, which includes two-time league Most Valuable Player Steve Nash, forwards Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, and guard Raja Bell, a defensive specialist, whom Strawberry said he hoped to emulate.

Strawberry was the only Maryland player drafted last night.

The Washington Wizards selected Southern California guard Nick Young with the 16th pick in the first round.

Young, a 6-6 shooting guard who left school after his junior year, averaged 17.5 points for the Trojans in the 2006-07 season.

"It was a very easy decision," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "We feel good about this pick."

In the second round, Washington selected Dominic McGuire, a 6-8 forward from Fresno State.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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