Camby may decide this week
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/22/1996
AMHERST – University of Massachusetts junior center Marcus Camby said last night he likely will announce this week whether he will forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the NBA.
“I will probably [make the decision] this week, so people will leave me alone,” said Camby, the national player of the year who, along with his teammates, was honored at a banquet last night at the Mullins Center. Many of the 1,500 people in attendance urged Camby to stay.
Camby said the announcement would be public. “It would only be fair to do that,” he said. He added he has not made up his mind yet.
“If my mind were made up, I would have made the announcement tonight,” he said. “But I'm still undecided. It seems like every day, I wake up with a different feeling about what I'm going to do.”
If Camby were to return, he would be the first junior national player of the year to play in his senior season since Ralph Sampson of Virginia in 1982.
Since the season ended, Camby said he repeatedly has been asked about his plans for the future. He said his offseason has been as grueling as the 1995-96 campaign, in which he led the Minutemen to their best season (35-2, the NCAA Final Four) despite an unexplained collapse in mid January.
“Wherever I go, that seems to be the question: What am I going to do?” said Camby. “People keep asking the same question over and over. And everybody has the same opinion on what I should do. I just want to make sure I'm happy.”
Camby stressed that money won't be the deciding factor. “If money meant happiness to me, I would have left last year,” he said. “I enjoy it on campus. I like my teammates. I like school.”
Camby likely will play power forward or small forward in the NBA, but he has spent much of his time at UMass playing center. When asked if he would prefer playing forward next season should he return, he said, “It doesn't matter where I play as long as I'm out there. I know I'll get my shots up.
“But you don't know. We've got some talented players like Lari Ketner coming in.” Camby was referring to the 6-foot-10-inch widebody who sat out this season after failing to become eligible.
When asked if he's gotten a lot of calls from agents, Camby said, “I'm not, but a lot of other people are. I haven't been home. They haven't been able to reach me.”
Camby received several awards last night, including the Adolph Rupp Trophy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky honoring the player of the year. The award came with a congratulatory letter from President Bill Clinton.
Notebook: About 500 people attended a celebration honoring the team yesterday afternoon at Curry Hicks Cage. There was a notable absence – Camby . . . UMass coach John Calipari said senior forward Donta Bright fared well at the Desert Classic in Arizona and Bright and teammate Dana Dingle played well in the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational.
Camby going pro?
UMass star is said to declare Monday
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/26/1996
AMHERST – University of Massachusetts junior center Marcus Camby, the national player of the year, is expected to announce Monday at 3 p.m. that he will make himself eligible for the NBA draft, a source close to the basketball program said yesterday.
The source added that Camby has not signed with an agent and that he might rescind the declaration and return to UMass for his senior season. Underclassmen have until May 12 to declare themselves eligible but can rescind the declaration before the June 26 draft.
“Basically, he wants to test the waters, to see how things unfold leading up to the draft,” the source said. Efforts to reach Camby, who has returned home to Hartford, were unsuccessful. His mother, Janice, said last night that she did not know anything about Camby's decision. UMass coach John Calipari was out of town, and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.
On Sunday, Camby said he would likely announce his intentions this week but had yet to make up his mind. Though he apparently has made a decision, he is leaving his options open.
Camby, who led the Minutemen to their first trip to the NCAA Final Four, said Sunday that he is happy with school and the team and added that money would not be the primary factor in his decision. “If [money were a factor], I would have left last year,” said Camby, who is insured against injury.
On Sunday night, Camby said he was eager to see what his friend, University of Connecticut junior Ray Allen, would do. Allen declared himself eligible Monday afternoon.
Camby averaged 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.9 blocks a game last season, coming back after an unexplained collapse at midseason sidelined him for several games.
Camby choice Monday
Even as a draftee, he'll have options
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/27/1996
University of Massachusetts junior center and consensus national player of the year Marcus Camby, who a source close to the program said will make himself eligible for the NBA draft, will hold a press conference Monday at 3 p.m. in the VIP Room of the Mullins Center, the school media relations department said in a release yesterday.
The department would not confirm a Globe report yesterday that Camby will declare his eligibility for the NBA but still might return to UMass.
For his part, Camby remained noncommittal in an interview with New England Cable News yesterday. “I haven't made up my mind. It's a very hard decision,” he said. “I don't know if I'm ready to live the NBA lifestyle. I don't know if I'm ready to compete in an 82-game schedule. There's no question in my mind that I can play at the next level. I just have to feel comfortable with it.
“It's a very hard schedule. The travel definitely takes its wear and tear on a player.”
Camby has until May 12 to declare himself eligible for the June 26 draft, then has until the day before the draft to withdraw.
If he is drafted, Camby has 30 days to return to school, provided he declares his intention to do so in writing to athletic director Bob Marcum.
Steve Mallonee, director of legislative services for the NCAA, said Camby would void his college eligibility if he signed with an agent.
Camby can receive legal counsel, however. “We allow a student-athlete to secure advice from a lawyer on a proposed contract as long as [the lawyer] is not representing the athlete on the negotiations of that contract,” said Mallonee.
Should Camby choose not to sign after being chosen, his rights would be retained through the end of the 1997-98 NBA season by the team that picked him. If at the end of that period Camby is unsigned, he would go back into the draft pool.
If he is drafted and returns to school within 30 days after being selected, Camby can still leave UMass at any time and sign with the team that holds his rights.
Conceivably, Camby could play his senior season at UMass, then leave right afterward and sign with the NBA team that holds his rights. Or he could leave at any point during his senior season.
In order to free himself from the NBA team that drafted him, Camby cannot play professionally for at least one year. If he is drafted by a team he doesn't want to play for, opts to return to UMass for his senior year, then decides to play overseas rather than join the NBA team, Camby's rights are retained by that team.
Notebook: Former UMass guard Mike Williams has returned to Hartford after a stint on a team in the Ukraine. “He got back a week ago,” said his father, Al Williams. “He was playing well.”
Word on Camby expected today
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/29/1996
If University of Massachusetts junior center Marcus Camby is still wavering this morning over his decision to turn pro or return to school, he need not go far for advice. On a rooftop of a barn on Route 9 in Hadley there reads this inscription: “UMass Basketball. Please Stay Marcus.”
By this afternoon, Camby, the consensus national player of the year who last week said he still was undecided, likely will have made up his mind. He is expected to announce his intentions at a press conference today at 3.
The Hadley resident who expressed his sentiment on a rooftop isn't the only person in the Amherst area who hopes Camby stays in school. Clearly, he has had the biggest impact of any player during the team's five-year stint as a national power, and the Minutemen stand a good chance of duplicating last season's success if Camby returns.
With Camby, UMass is probably an odds-on favorite for preseason No. 1, with Cincinnati or Kansas (both of which return most of their personnel) running a close second.
Sources say that Camby will make himself eligible for the draft but leave open his option for returning, waiting to see how things unfold leading to the draft.
UMass coach John Calipari said last night in television interviews at a ceremony in Woburn that Camby has not told him what he will do. Calipari said Camby has given him an indication, but he would not say what that was.
But judging from the coach's words, it appears the pros of moving on outweigh the cons.
“I asked him, `Why would you stay?' and he said, `I want to get my degree,' “ said Calipari. “And I told him, `Stop. You're on line to get your degree. You can come back for two summers and get your degree. Don't worry about that. You're OK there.'
“So he said, `I want to win a national title.' And I said, `Whoa. That's for us. That's not for you.'
“He's a pro, he's an NBA player. The question I threw to him was this: You're going to a bad team and you're going to have to perform in a rough league. If you're ready for that, there is no decision.”
Calipari said that money is also a factor because, “his mother babysits to make ends meet.”
One source close to the team said yesterday that if Camby returns he will play power forward, with either reserve Inus Norville or newcomer Lari Ketner playing center.
Norville came on strong toward the end of the season and has developed reliable low-post skills. Ketner, a 6-foot-10-inch, 250-pounder from Philadelphia, sat out last season after failing to meet eligibility requirements.
Power forward would be a more natural position for Camby in the NBA, and it would allow him to roam the post more and utilize his exceptional passing skills as a senior.
If Camby leaves, UMass still would have the potential to be a Top 10 team, but the Minutemen also will have to make up for the loss of starting forwards Donta Bright and Dana Dingle.
“If he stays, we're going to have a really good team, I'm sure it would be one of the top five in the country,” said UMass assistant coach James (Bruiser) Flint.
“But if he goes I still think we will have a good team. We have good guys coming back. We have a good recruiting class. It's not as if the bottom is going to fall out if he leaves.”
There are probably only two players who would be chosen ahead of Camby in the draft – Tim Duncan of Wake Forest and Allen Iverson of Georgetown.
Neither has committed yet, but speculation is that Duncan likely will stay. Sources in the Winston-Salem area say he probably will head to his native St. Croix, talk with his family and make his decision in about a week.
The sources also say he has signed basketballs, “Tim Duncan, Wake Forest 1993-97.” They add that former Wake Forest standout guard Randolph Childress has spoken with Duncan and has told him that if he is having fun in school he should return.
Camby declares he's . . . Lottery live!
For UMass star, it's high time to explore NBA
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 4/30/1996
AMHERST – First came the big joke. University of Massachusetts star center Marcus Camby, with coach John Calipari seated in his shadow, said yesterday, “I'd like to announce that I'm transferring to UConn.”
Then the consensus national player of the year announced the big decision: “I've decided to declare my eligibility for the NBA draft.”
Camby, who is now the potential No. 1 pick in the June 26 draft, did what many speculated he would: He declared himself eligible but left the window of opportunity open to return to school by saying he will not sign with an agent between now and the draft.
“I think it's time, it's really time for me right now,” said Camby, who discussed a few reasons for returning but was unwavering in his decision to leave. “I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in life in my three years here, besides winning the national title and getting my education. I'm close to graduating and if I decide to come back, we will make a pitch for the national title next year.
“I want to provide for my family. Being the man of my household, I know my mother deserves better than what she has right now, and I took that under consideration.”
Camby said he considered the possibility of leaving throughout the season, and he made up his mind a week ago.
“Some days I'd wake up and I'd be like, `Yeah I want to go,' and some days I'd be like, `I'll wait another year,' “ he said. “And over the last couple of weeks I felt that I'd make a decision.
“The door is always open. I left the option open for me to come back to school.”
However, Calipari said Camby's chances of returning are so slim they're not even worth discussing.
“They're one in a million,” said Calipari. “He's provided himself a small safety valve but it's very small. Don't take from him that there's a chance he's coming back. He's saying, `I'm going to be all right if something crazy happens.' But the chances of that are slim and none, and I do not expect it to happen and I even told him, `Your heart is in this. Now go make it work.' “
When asked whether his coach's assessment was correct, Camby said, “I don't know. It's something I have strong feelings about doing and I feel comfortable. Right now, I've got my mind set on leaving.”
Camby did say one thing that would make him reconsider was getting drafted by a team he does not want to play for.
“None of the teams drafting me are great teams or good teams right now,” said Camby. “But I would love to be a part of a team that's growing and some day will be successful.
“I'm just going to go out and work on my game and wait around to see what the [NBA draft lottery] drawings are, to see who's going to have the top picks.” The lottery will be held May 19.
Camby said he would consider returning for a national championship, but added, “Winning national championships involve a lot of luck.”
When it was suggested that coming back to play power forward – where he's most likely to play in the NBA – would improve his chances for success at the next level, that's when Camby sounded most like he was leaving for good.
“It probably would have improved my game,” he said, “but I guess we'll never know now because I intend to leave.”
Camby has gone from a sleeper – he was not well-known until his exceptional play at the Olympic Festival in 1993, where many mistook him for Rasheed Wallace – to being one of the most talked-about players in college basketball. Still, he had setbacks in each of his three seasons: an ankle injury as a freshman, a hamstring injury as a sophomore and an unexplained collapse last season.
But those factors did not make him fearful of more injuries in his senior season.
“It didn't matter because I had a disability life insurance plan,” he said. “I just plan to go out and play the best I can.”
The insurance is an NCAA-approved policy that covers Camby 24 hours a day and would pay him a lump sum of $2.7 million (the NCAA maximum) in the event of injury. It covers Camby until he signs a pro contract. That undoubtedly played a role in his returning last year, when he also considered turning pro. But, he said, “This year I'm readier than I was last year. I think I did need another year.”
Calipari said he is certain that Camby will return to school at some point to get his degree.
“We talked about that,” he said. “That was the goal, but most of my athletes don't have the opportunity to be drafted No. 1 and have what he has in front of him.
“He will get his degree. He understands what is important. He will have children someday, and when he's telling his daughter or son, `Get your degree,' they're going to look at him and say, `Do you have yours?' “
Calipari said the loss would not prompt him to sign another player.
“We're going to have a little bit of a vacuum but it's going to be by committee,” he said. “Still, we have Inus Norville, Tyrone Weeks and [incoming players] Ajmal Basit and Lari Ketner. We have four players with good size who will fill the void. Maybe not as good as Marcus, but we will be OK.”
Notebook: Calipari also took the opportunity to assert that he was staying at UMass, though his success has made him a popular candidate for other jobs. “I'm going to be here,” he said. “I'm not interviewing for jobs. My intention is to be here for a long time.” . . . Former UMass standout Tony Barbee, who last season did radio commentary for Minutemen games, has been hired as a restricted-earnings coach at St. John's.
Ostensible center isn't in an untenable position
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 4/30/1996
AMHERST – It was a cross between a graduation and a wedding.
Marcus Camby was graduating from the UMass program and about to be married into the NBA. The guests sat on folding chairs, such as you would find at any banquet hall. The fruit, cheese, cookies and soda were beckoning from a table on one side of the room, so you can even say there was a reception. The view from the opposite side of the room was certainly appropriate: There we had the 9,000 seats, the banners and the retired jerseys of the Mullins Center, where Camby practiced his craft for three years. The only thing missing was the organist.
“This,” proclaimed John Calipari, “is a happy moment. One of the things I told him was that there shouldn't be any crying at this thing. This is a celebration. He is doing the right thing. I told him I was happy for him and his family and there were no negative feelings whatsoever.”
There were 14 minicams in evidence. Fourteen! For the record, when Julius Erving – still the greatest player in UMass history – made his decision to leave the college ranks and jump to the ABA 25 years ago, there were no cameras and no reporters.
“I was at the national convention in Houston,” recalls Jack Leaman, Erving's mentor, “and I got a phone call from [assistant coach] Ray Wilson. `What's the matter?' I said. `Is my wife leaving me?' Ray said, `No, it's worse than that. Julius is.' “
Unlike Coach Cal, who had to start worrying about his young prize heading into the pros a year ago, and who had to know in his heart of hearts he'd be losing him this year, poor Jack Leaman had no clue that Julius was about to drop the bomb.
“I knew he was ready [to play],” Leaman says, “but it still wasn't that common for a kid to leave early, and I wasn't prepared for him to do it.”
And how about this? Julius (not yet known as Dr. J) wanted to play for the hometown New York (i.e. Long Island) Nets. The only problem was, they didn't want him.
“Louie Carnesecca was coaching them,” says Leaman, “and he said he would not sign underclassmen.”
The story gets a little crazy now. Julius Erving was signed by the Virginia Squires. So what, you ask?
“The Squires had never seen Julius play,” swears Leaman. “They had no idea what a bargain they had.”
Well that was then and this is now, and there isn't anyone in the NBA who hasn't seen Camby play at least 25 times in the last three years. He has been dissected and analyzed, and yet, quite like Dr. J, he remains something of a mystery. Camby doesn't fit into an NBA computer.
“He will define a position,” assures Calipari.
And what position is that, coach?
“I don't know,” says Coach Cal. “That's what we have to find out. But I love it when people say, `Well, what is he? Is he a 4? Is he a 5? I just say, `What are you, stupid? Just play him.' He's not a 3 [small forward], he's not a 4 [power forward] and he's not a 5 [center]. Someday we'll know. We'll say he's a dah-dah-dah. Remember Will Herndon? What was he? I guess you can say he was a Man. He played the Man's position.”
Herndon was a 6-foot-3-inch power forward with absolutely no shot. He was one of the great leapers of all-time and he had superb passing instincts. He was one bizarre package of skills, and Calipari doesn't expect to see his peculiar like again.
Camby is a 7-footer who can put the ball on the floor, who can run, who can block shots, who can rebound and who looks as if he hasn't eaten since 1989. People look at him and assume he'll be back on the plane to Amherst after one training camp elbow.
“I know what they're thinking,” says Camby, “and I know I have to get into the weight room. But I'm not going to put on 40 pounds so I can try to play the 5. That's not my natural position.”
Why can't we just say he's a forward, and leave it at that? The answer is that we live in an age of specialization, and football and basketball have attempted to position themselves as deep forms of intellectual exercise. Football people can do an hour on why Thickneck A is more suited to play guard than Thickneck B, who, in turn, can play tackle better than Thickneck A. And don't even ask about playing center. That's only for thicknecks who can skate through MIT. Please.
Basketball people aren't much better. Whereas once there were forwards and guards, now there are 1's, 2's, 3's and 4's. Instead of simply learning how to play basketball, kids are slotted as post players or wing players. When people find a so-called 2 who actually can handle the ball (e.g. Carmelo Travieso), it makes some people nervous. You're a shooting guard; you're not supposed to make a play.
Camby is uncategorizable. He will be able to pull a Kevin McHale and guard everyone from 6-5 guys to 7-4 hulks. He will post up people he can post up and he will beat those off the dribble when he makes the judgment that quickness is the ticket. He never will lead the league in rebounding, but he will get his share. He will enhance team defense with his where-did-he-come-from? brand of Russell-like shotblocking and he will enhance team offense with his clever passing. He also will make the Big Play.
“What I remember most about Julius,” says Leaman, “is that when the ball was on the rim and there was a big play to be made, you'd see No. 32 just rise above the pack and make the play. The same is true of Camby. When something had to be done, you'd see No. 21 rise above the pack and make the play.”
The fact that Jack Leaman is even discussing No. 21 in the same breath as No. 32 tells me all I need to know. Look out, NBA: Here comes the very first dah-dah-dah.
Strong scrutiny for Camby
Health, durability big issue
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 5/1/1996
After his collapse before a Jan. 14 game at St. Bonaventure, University of Massachusetts center Marcus Camby played the rest of the season as if nothing was wrong. By the time the junior from Hartford led the Minutemen to their first Final Four ever in April, questions about his physical condition had ceased.
But now that the consensus national player of the year has declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, Camby should brace himself for extensive workouts and inquiries from teams interested in him. Included will be questions about Camby's strength and stamina – matters that seem more important than what position he will play.
Even as the Minutemen were beginning their postseason run, UMass officials were submitting to NBA teams Camby's medical records from Olean (N.Y.) General Hospital, where he was taken after collapsing, and the UMass Medical Center, where he subsequently underwent a battery of tests.
Toronto Raptors director of scouting Bob Zuffelato said that upon receiving the records, they contacted Camby's doctors at UMass Medical Center.
“They have told us that they will be cooperative in any way they can,” said Zuffelato. “That subject [Camby's collapse] is tremendously important. Everybody interested in him is going to investigate his medical history. He will be put through rigorous workouts. I know he doesn't plan to play at the predraft camp in Chicago, but like the other players, he will have to undergo a physical up there.”
The issue of strength and stamina is important, particularly if Camby is to play in the low post.
“I'm sure there are certain kinds of standards a player has to establish,” said Milwaukee Bucks vice president of player personnel Lee Rose.
“When you say strenuous workout [for NBA play], you're talking about 82 games. That's a marathon. At the college ranks, you're talking about 30 games. With the NBA playoffs, you're playing three times as many games as in college. He'll go through some physical [workout] activity, the same we put other players through, and then we will go from there.”
Camby spent much of the season double- and triple-teamed, particularly in the high post, but he fended it off by using his accurate turnaround jumper and dishing off to open men driving the lane. But late in the year, teams found they could neutralize Camby somewhat with physical play, and he was often manhandled in the post. In the NCAA tournament, however, Camby handled it better.
“Strength is one of the major areas of concern with Camby,” said Zuffelato. “You can tell he's developing his strength and getting a lot stronger. He's stronger than he looks. And he can shoot that outside jumper and take people off the dribble, which gives him a leg up on people.”
There doesn't seem to be any concern over a position for Camby.
“He draws some similarities to [Bucks forward] Vinnie Baker, but I think Vinnie is a bit stronger and more suitable for low-post play,” said Rose. “Because of their weight, both have similar attributes [entering the NBA]. Both have long bodies but forward skills and can handle the ball.”
Baker came into the league weighing 232 pounds. Now the 6-foot-11-inch forward is listed at 250. Camby, who is listed at 220, doesn't feel he needs to put on a lot of weight.
“I always say length is strength,” he said. “I'm not going to go out there and put on 40 pounds to play the [center spot]. That's not my natural position. I'm going to be in the weight room and get stronger and prepare my game for the next level.
“There are a lot of things I have to do to get ready to prepare for the next level. I'll be working out and prepare my game.
“I haven't decided [whether to finish out the semester at UMass] yet, but I'm going to do the right things and I'm going to school right now.”