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McDavid Waits for Shot at NBA Draft

June 25, 1996 GMT

WILLIAMSTON, S.C. (AP) _ Taj ``Red″ McDavid wants to follow in the footsteps of Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins, Shawn Kemp and Kevin Garnett.

His chances?

Not good, say many draft watchers.

That doesn’t faze the boyish-looking, 6-foot-6 McDavid, who hopes Wednesday to join the exclusive club of players who have made the jump from high school to the NBA.

``That’s all I’m looking for, someone to give me a chance,″ the teen-ager said Tuesday after hitting four straight 3-pointers in a shoot-around at his Palmetto High School gym. ``I’ll take it from there.″

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But pro scouts say McDavid, 19, has a better chance of becoming the first high school player to declare himself eligible for the draft and not get picked.

McDavid, who graduated high school this year, averaged 25.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and four blocked shots last season. He is the ``other″ high school prospect trying to make the NBA this year.

The big two, Kobe Bryant of Lower Merion (Pa.) High and Jermaine O’Neal of Eau Claire High in Columbia, have had weeks of national publicity and tryouts with several NBA teams.

Meanwhile, McDavid has waited by his mother’s telephone, playing in local pickup games and lifting weights in their mobile home’s living room to try to bulk up his 185-pound frame. He missed the NBA draft camp, and only reporters and NBA league officials have called with questions, he said.

But he says he has the talent to play either shooting or point guard in the NBA, taking on players like Michael Jordan, whose pictures adorn his bedroom walls.

McDavid said he has nothing against going to college first, but he did not qualify academically to play at an NCAA member school.

``If I go to a four-year college I’d have to sit out my first year, but I want to play now,″ he said. ``That’s what it’s about for me, playing basketball this year. Following my dream now, instead of a few years from now.″

Very few high school players successfully made the jump straight to the NBA. Last year, Maudlin native Garnett became the first high schooler in about 20 years to do it as the fifth pick by Minnesota.

Others include Malone in 1974 and Dawkins and Bill Willoughby in 1975. Kemp briefly attended the University of Kentucky and Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, but did not play at either and was drafted in 1989, a year after high school.

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Scouts say McDavid’s skills aren’t on par with those players.

``This kid ought to go get an education,″ said NBA superscout Marty Blake. ``Right now, he’s not good enough to play CBA ball, much less in the NBA.″

College scout Bob Gibbons of Lenoir, N.C., called McDavid ``a talented player, but I doubt many NBA scouts have heard of him.″

McDavid says the critics said the same thing about Garnett, who was starting for the Timberwolves before the season ended. But he knows if he isn’t drafted, coaches will point him out to other high schoolers as an incentive to go to college.

McDavid says he will be ``a little devastated″ if he doesn’t make the NBA. He said he would then go to junior college, petition to regain his eligibility at an NCAA school, or play minor-league basketball, then try to get into the NBA again.

``If I don’t make it to the NBA now, eventually I’ll be there,″ he said. ``If I have to go to another route then I will, because I’m going after my dream.″