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Miguel Gets a Workout as New Jersey Drafts Him 62nd

June 19, 1985|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

Nigel Miguel got the word at a friend's house--over the radio.

The former UCLA guard from Pacoima and Notre Dame High was selected in the third round (62nd overall) of the National Basketball Assn. draft by the New Jersey Nets.

"I'm excited," he said. "I don't show it too much. I don't jump up and down, but I'm happy with myself right now."

Miguel had spent most of the day hiding his emotions.

He watched a better part of the first round as a guest of the Clippers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel--the early rounds of the draft were televised by superstation WTBS--before leaving with his agent, Sam Gilbert, and former UCLA teammates Brad Wright and Gary Maloncon.

They went to take a room at the Bel-Air Sands Hotel, but decided not to check in when told the hotel did not have cable television.

So they split up, with Miguel driving over to a friend's house in Bel-Air.

Through it all, Miguel seemed more interested in working out than finding out when and by whom he had been drafted.

When word finally came early in the afternoon, he said: "This is really going to screw up my day because I have to do all these interviews."

At the time, he had been contacted by television stations KCBS, KTLA and KHJ.

"This is where it really begins," he said of his selection by the Nets. "My main concern is to be in shape going into camp. As long as you get drafted, you get an opportunity to go to camp, so you have to be in shape when you go back there."

A year ago, the NBA draft was the farthest thing from Miguel's mind. His UCLA career had been "a nightmare," he said. He averaged four points a game as a junior and shot 39.8%.

Then, last season, new coach Walt Hazzard converted him from a small-forward/big-guard bench warmer into a starting point guard. And Miguel blossomed.

He averaged 12 points and shot 48.6% and gained a reputation as a defensive stopper. UCLA won the National Invitation Tournament, with Miguel averaging more than 15.6 points and shooting 56.3% in that span.

He was compared favorably to the Lakers' Michael Cooper, a third-round NBA draft choice who made it first as an athlete and a defender and has now played on three NBA championship teams.

In less than a year, the day of the NBA draft had become more to Miguel than just another day in June.

Monday night, he said, he didn't sleep very well.

"I tried not to think about it," he said, "but it's really tough."

His girlfriend called from back East at 6 a.m. Tuesday, and about 90 minutes later, Miguel got out of bed. He went running in the hills near his parents' home in Pacoima.

Apparently, he lost track of time because he missed an appointment with Gilbert at 9:30. When he arrived at the Beverly Wilshire, the draft had just begun.

Naturally, he said before being drafted that he would love to play in Southern California.

"I've lived on the West Coast basically all my life and I'd love to stay right around here, with the Clippers especially," he said. "It's an organization that's on the rise and I could really contribute to the team. And it's right here in my hometown, so it would be a perfect situation.

"But if that doesn't come true, and I get drafted by a team that can use me, then it doesn't really matter."

As the draft continued, Miguel, Wright and Maloncon, sitting together at a table with Gilbert, commented on the players being selected in the first round.

When Villanova's Ed Pinckney was chosen by Phoenix, Miguel smiled.

"I played with all these guys in the McDonald's (All-Star) Game (as a high school senior)," he said. "Pinckney's a good friend of mine."

Washington's Detlef Schrempf, limited to 18 points by Miguel in two games last season, was the eighth player chosen.

"He's a good player," Miguel said. "When you go that high, you've been consistent for three or four years. It's no surprise.

"As far as him being compared to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, I think that's a little far-fetched."

When Keith Lee of Memphis State became the 11th player picked, Maloncon said: "Are they going to show (film of) him against us? We're on everybody's highlight film."

Everybody laughed. The Bruins may have finished strong, but they had a rough time with Lee and the Tigers early in the season.

After about 15 players had been selected, Miguel admitted it was getting a little nerve wracking.

"It's exciting to see where all these other guys go," he said. "But, man, you're just here for one person--to see where you're going to go, what your life is going to be like after today."

Marty Blake, director of scouting for the NBA, was on the screen, talking about the dearth of point guards in this year's draft.

"Marty Blake is pretty hard (to please)," Miguel said. "He makes some comments that I don't think he needs to make. But that's his job. It really doesn't matter what he says. You still have to go out there and play."

And when he does, Miguel said, "I'll go in there as a sleeper and I'll turn a lot of heads around."

Miguel believes the comparisons to Cooper have merit.

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