Scotland Draft 2002

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Archibald makes NBA history

Mark Woods

Growing up, Robert Archibald used to sit behind the bench and watch his father run the floor at the old Forum in Livingston, the great talents on that history-making Murray International team idolised through the eyes of an attentive child.

Now, the 611 centre has made his own piece of Scottish - and British - basketball history as the NBA held its annual draft at New Yorks Madison Square Garden, becoming the highest ever draft pick for a Briton after being taken 32nd by the Memphis Grizzlies, fourth in the second round.

"Obviously it's exciting," he told, just moments after the surprise announcement. "I was trying to keep it low-key but when I heard my name, it was incredible."

"Even just being the first Scotsman is a huge honour. I'm ecstatic about the opportunity ahead of me."

But he added: "As hard as it was to reach this point, I have to take the attitude of working as hard as I can to ensure that this isn't the highlight of it all and that I can build on what has happened so far."

The 22 year old moved Stateside five years ago with his father Bobby, who once starred along side the likes of  Iain Maclean and Alton Byrd on a team which rose from the small grey-brick town on the outskirts of Edinburgh to lift the world's club title.

Before his emigration, Arch Jr. led Dunfermline's Queen Anne High School to a championship while becoming one of the youngest-ever call-ups to Scotland's Under-23 pool.

After setting sail westward, he won himself at scholarship to the University of Illinois where he matured into one of the toughest competitors in the NCAA. 

It has been a winding road to this point. But after honing his skills against Americas top young players, turning professional could make him an instant millionaire.

Its a big jump from Dunfermline, he admits. I think it would be great for Scottish basketball and it would be a big honour for me to be the first Scotsman to go through the Draft or play in the NBA. 

Thats something that Ive worked very hard for.

He explains: Ive been very busy. I usually work out from 9-2 in Chicago where Im based. Or if I have a try-out, Ill travel in the evening to a city and work out for the team in the next morning. Fly out that afternoon to another city and have a work-out with another team. 

"The travel can get on top of you if youre not well prepared for it but its not been too problematic."

The top choice in the Draft was Chinese star Yao Ming whose passage to the NBA has been the subject of intense political negotiation.

After try-outs with several top sides, including the Chicago Bulls, the Scot's odds of becoming only the third Briton to reach the league were greatly enhanced.

There was pressure in them but its no different to anything else Ive done, he admits. Ive been playing at a high level for a long time. Ive become accustomed to the idea of people watching me. 

The work-outs are fairly laid back. Theyre there to give you a chance to show what you can do on the court and generally, its been a lot of fun.

Such diligence did not go unnoticed, particularly some fine showings at the pre-draft showcases organised for the benefit of the NBA's recruiters-in-chief.

''He did a nice job in college in terms of playing in a system,'' Memphis supremo Jerry West said. 

''We think he's a very aggressive player. He's somebody that can come in the game and give us some good effort plays and more importantly some toughness that we need on the inside. Our scouts were high on him.'' 

Being selected provided a straight route into the frame to make a roster next term but it has been a question of fighting off competition from the other eligible suitors.

Teams usually try and bring in other guys who play the same position," adds the young Scot. "That gives them a chance to evaluate how you stack up against other centres who are in the draft.

His agent Mark Bartlestein, whose other clients include superstar NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, has been taking soundings from the 29 general managers on the swings and roundabouts emerging from the various war rooms across North America. 

Justifiably, he liked what he heard.

Hes done really well. He did really well at the Chicago camp where he had a great week in front of all the teams and now hes going out and doing individual work-outs. Hes been terrific so were really happy with what hes doing. Hes moved himself up quite a bit."`

'And with the 32nd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select Robert Archibald of the University of Illinois'

It was as good a surprise as you could get," he admits. "I was trying to keep things low-key by playing cards while the draft was going on but I suddenly saw my picture on the the TV and realised what was going on."

A dream fulfilled, that's what.

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