COLUMBIA — DeMarre Carroll can finally relax.
After weeks of questions about his health left his NBA prospects in jeopardy, Carroll, a former standout with the Missouri men's basketball team, can exhale after the Memphis Grizzlies selected him with the 27th pick of Thursday's NBA Draft.
“I am just relieved it happened. My medical condition made things crazy, and I’m just happy it’s over, and happy to be a Grizzly,” Carroll said by phone on Thursday night.
Carroll has been receiving treatment for a liver disease since his first season at Missouri, and could need a liver transplant in 20-25 years. The news clouded the forward’s outstanding performance at the predraft Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where Carroll was named most valuable player.
Carroll worked out for the Grizzlies last week, and rumors surfaced on the internet Thursday morning that Carroll was promised by the Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace to be chosen with the 27th pick. Wallace refuted the rumor in statements to the Memphis Flyer, saying that he no longer gives promises to prospective draft picks.
When he was the general manager of the Boston Celtics, Wallace promised Kendrick Brown that he would be selected with the 11th pick in the 2001 draft. Wallace kept that promise despite the fact that several players the Celtics had held higher on their draft board were available when the Celtics chose Brown. The pick perplexed many in the league because of Brown’s highest level of competitive basketball was at Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Florida. Brown went on to average 3.6 points per game for three different teams, and is currently not under contract with an NBA team.
Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer said by phone Thursday night that the Grizzlies had several players ranked higher on their draft board when they they selected Carroll, but they passed on players like Derrick Brown, and DeJuan Blair.
“He worked out well, the team liked him, but I have to wonder if a promise was made,” Herrington said.
DeMarre Carroll also refutes that he was promised to be selected 27th, but said he was not surprised with the Grizzlies choosing him.
“There was no promise made. The Grizzlies and two other teams said that they were strongly interested, and I have to take them at their word, so it wasn’t a promise,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he feels comfortable with his new bosses in Memphis, saying they are a great fit.
Carroll averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds for the Tigers last season, leading them to the NCAA West Regional finals. Since the end of the Tigers’ season, Carroll has been working on his perimeter game with former NBA player Don MacLean in Los Angeles. There, Carroll’s training partner was Taj Gibson, who was selected by the Chicago Bulls one pick before Carroll.
Carroll has not set out any personal goals for his first season with the Grizzlies, stating that team victories are his goal, but Carroll said he thinks he can help his new team win.
“I’m going to bring what I brought at Mizzou — Junkyard Dog. I can be a lockdown defender and take, and make the shot when I need to. I can help the Grizzlies win games,” Carroll said.
Carroll's former teammate with the Tigers, Leo Lyons was not selected in the draft and became a free agent. His agent Mark Bartlestein said he has started contract negotiations with several teams and expects Lyons to sign an NBA contract on Friday.