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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Indiana Pacers Pick Shawne Williams - Indianapolis Star

Pacers pick Shawne Williams of Memphis

By Mike Wells, Indianapolis Star
mike.wells@indystar.com

Larry Bird said he drafted the mystery player he wanted. But he did it while raising some eyebrows. The Pacers surprised many when they drafted University of Memphis forward Shawne Williams with the No. 17 pick in Wednesday's NBA draft."We felt like Shawne Williams was the guy we wanted all along, and we got him," Bird said during an interview with ESPN. "It was tough because there were three or four teams we didn't know which direction they were going, so we were just hoping and praying our guy would get to us. We got very fortunate."

In the second round, the Pacers selected Alexander Johnson, a forward from Florida State. Indiana then traded Johnson to Portland for University of Cincinnati guard James White, who was the Trail Blazers' second-round pick. Portland also gets two future second-round picks.

Bird planned to speak to Indianapolis media after the completion of the draft, which was too late for this edition of The Star.

Bird was obviously putting up a smokescreen when he said late last week the team would likely continue its trend of drafting players with at least three years of college experience. Williams, 20, played one season at Memphis.

The 6-9 Williams averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 36 games, including 34 starts, with the Tigers, who made it to the West Regional Finals. Williams was Conference USA Freshman of the Year.

The Pacers passed on the opportunity to draft Connecticut's Marcus Williams, arguably the best point guard in the draft.

Some analysts questioned the Pacers' selection of Shawne Williams, especially with their need to get better in the backcourt. The Pacers are trying to catch up with the likes of Detroit and Miami in the Eastern Conference. ESPN's Greg Anthony called the pick, "a reach, I think."

"I wonder, though, if he's a winner," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said about Williams. "He's physically weak right now. He has to improve that, and he has to be more focused as a defender, as a rebounder. Right now he's only focused on scoring. Frankly, he's such a young player, he plays only when he feels like it. He's got the tools, though."

Williams' coach in college, John Calipari, shot down the notion that his former player has a poor work ethic.

"That's a ridiculous statement," Calipari said. "He was one of our leaders . . . as a freshman. When Larry Bird calls and really, really likes him, and tells me this, I'm like, 'Wow.' You're talking about a guy who's a great teammate, has everybody's respect and accepts everybody. The kid, I'm telling you, they can say what they want, he's going to be the sleeper of the draft."

The Pacers will have three players battling for time at small forward if Peja Stojakovic re-signs when free agency starts this weekend. Danny Granger also plays small forward.

Bird said during his television interview that Williams will be able to play power forward after while. The athletic, versatile Williams made 43 percent of his 3-pointers, but only shot 42 percent from the field.

Call star reporter Mike Wells at (317) 444-6053

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