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Set for their shot

Former Tigers’ NBA
futures will become
clearer after tonight
Thursday, June 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:56 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Since his graduation and the end of a hectic basketball season, Travon Bryant has led a somewhat slow, simple life.

With his basketball plans undecided, there hasn’t been much for Bryant to do other than prepare for that future as best he can. On his own, Bryant has worked on his game and body for about five hours a day, then rested so he could do it again the next day.

Finally, though, Bryant and fellow former Tigers Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding will see their futures become clearer after tonight’s 2004 NBA Draft, which begins at 6 in Madison Square Garden.

“It’s going so far, so good,” Bryant said. “I’m happy with the process. It’s kind of nerve-racking not to know what’s going to happen. I guess it’ll be worth it when whatever happens, happens.”

Although Bryant is not likely to hear his name called tonight, Johnson and Paulding probably will hear their names sometime in the second round. NBAdraft.net has consistently listed Johnson and Paulding as picks in the middle of the second round, and Insidehoops.com lists them as middle to late second-round picks.

Paulding’s agent, Doug Neustadt, said Paulding has worked out for teams picking in the 20s through 40s but would not say specifically which teams.

“He had a lot of workouts,” Neustadt said. “They were against some very tough competition, and I got some real positive feedback.”

Paulding decided to return to Missouri for his senior season, but he failed to approach the level of hype that surrounded him before the season. Neustadt said Paulding did not regret the decision to return, though.

Paulding averaged 15.1 points, 10th best in the Big 12 Conference, but that was down from his 17.4 average as a junior.

On top of that, scouts at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp on June 8-11 in Chicago measured Paulding to be shorter than his listed height. Without shoes, Paulding is almost 6 feet 3, though he was listed at 6-5.

The same happened to Johnson. Scouts measured him at 6-7. He was listed at 6-9, but said his skill level means more than his height.

“People have been watching me play basketball for a long time, and they know I can play the game,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said he remained optimistic about his chances to be drafted and didn’t regret returning for his final season with the Tigers.

Johnson led the team with 17.4 points per game and 7.5 rebounds, and against Texas Tech on March 3, Johnson set the school record for career rebounds (1,083). His 245 blocked shots is also a school record. “My whole life I’ve wanted to play in the NBA, so right now I’m just doing the things that it hopefully takes to play in the NBA,” Johnson said.

“I pretty much know what it takes, hard work and doing the job, rebounding the ball and defending.”

Even if Bryant, who is 6-9, is not drafted, teams might remain interested. The Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, New York and Portland have expressed interest in having Bryant play with them during the summer.

“Through my agent and when they’ve talked to me, they’ve said they’ve watched enough film on me to know what I’m able to do,” Bryant said. “But I would still like the chance to go out there and show whatever team that wanted me to come out there to show them my ability.”

Bryant’s attraction to teams increased greatly thanks to the best year of his career last season. He averaged career highs in scoring (10.6) and rebounding (6.6). He also blocked a career-high 45 shots and made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts, a team high.

Bryant, like Johnson, wants his on-court effort and presence to persuade NBA scouts to look at more than his statistics.

“The way I look at it is teams have their superstars; they know who they want to score,” Bryant said. “One thing I don’t think you can substitute is how competitive you are and the amount of energy you bring to a game or a team. I believe that’s one of the things I can do.

“I’m a real believer in whatever you do in the defensive end will transpire to the offensive end. That’s the way I’m going into things.”


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