Waiting game works out well for Strawberry

The Baltimore Sun

A majority of the more recent NBA mock drafts had D.J. Strawberry going late in the second round of Thursday's two-round affair, so, intellectually, he was prepared to sit and wait.

But, as the draft droned on into its fourth hour and he still hadn't been picked, Strawberry, a 6-foot-5 guard from Maryland, got understandably anxious.

Finally, when the phone rang and the Phoenix Suns were on the other end of the line, saying they had taken him with the 59th and next-to-last pick of the draft, Strawberry got considerably more comfortable.

"It was a long night for me," Strawberry said at an afternoon news conference in Phoenix yesterday. "It [his home in California] was crazy. I was pretty nervous and my family was pretty nervous. But when I got the phone call and my name was called, everybody was more excited than I was."

Strawberry, clad in a white golf shirt with an alternate Phoenix logo, had spoken favorably last week in Washington about his workout with the Suns. He will get a chance to make the Phoenix roster, starting with summer-league play, which begins next week in Las Vegas with practice sessions leading to a week of games the following Monday.

Though Strawberry and first-round choice Alando Tucker of Wisconsin displayed boyish smiles and youthful exuberance yesterday, the factor that made them attractive to the Suns was their experience and know-how.

Strawberry and Tucker are relative rarities in today's NBA: players who stuck it out for four years in college, and the Suns, who lost to eventual champion San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals this year and to Dallas in the Western finals the year before, wanted players who had full resumes to offer, as opposed to blank slates.

"A lot of people out there, for whatever reason, seem to think that the younger the player, the better, maybe because their career span is longer," said Steve Kerr, the newly installed head of basketball operations in Phoenix.

"I tend to take the opposite point of view. I believe strongly in life experience, in playing experience. I think players these days who come out early miss a big part of the natural progression of becoming a good basketball player and growing up and becoming a man. They've learned how to be good teammates and they've learned how to be coached and to be coachable."

Said Strawberry: "It helps you a lot being there for four years, just going through the battles, night in and night out, and getting you prepared for each situation."


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