The National Basketball Assn. draft Tuesday was a bit of a letdown for excited Keith Smith and just another day for placid Forrest McKenzie, but it was a big day in the annals of Loyola Marymount basketball, which produced the first two West Coast players selected in the draft.
Smith, a 6-4 guard, was the second West Coast player taken, going 45th--late in the second round--to the Milwaukee Bucks. McKenzie, a 6-7 guard/small forward, was chosen 48th, the first selection in the third round by the San Antonio Spurs. The first West Coast player drafted was Johnny Rogers of UC Irvine.
Smith had expected to be chosen earlier and was disappointed at first. After the first round, McKenzie had lost interest and had gone off to the gym to shoot baskets.
Still, Loyola has never had a player taken in the second round and has never had the first West Coast selections.
(The previous best draft position was the third-round selection of Rick Adelman by the Portland Trailblazers in 1976.)
Rivalry With Skiles
When it sank in, Smith was looking forward to a double challenge--making a good Bucks team and beating out Michigan State All-American Scott Skiles, Milwaukee's first choice. The two not only were selected for the same point-guard position but also had a confrontation at the post-season Aloha Classic and aren't on each others' Christmas card lists.
"My best friend," Smith said sarcastically, adding this warning: "If I'm healthy and me and Scott Skiles have to go head to head for the job, it's mine."
Tuesday was full of surprises for Smith, who had been interviewed by the Indiana Pacers and expected to be chosen by them or the Chicago Bulls no later than the 30th pick. Smith's standing probably dropped when he broke his toe in the Aloha Classic in April. The injury has been slow to heal and Smith was in a cast Tuesday.
He was pacing nervously when the draft started. He and his parents, Ron and Beverly Colter, along with McKenzie and some members of the news media had gathered at the home of team benefactor Al Gersten Jr. in Beverly Hills to watch the draft on cable television.
While McKenzie quietly watched and munched grapes, Smith chattered during the early picks--none of whom were guards. Guards weren't taken until Cleveland chose Miami of Ohio's Ron Harper eighth and San Antonio took Duke's Johnny Dawkins 10th. "There's too many guards left," Smith said at that point. "I wanted to get rid of Johnny (Dawkins) and Pearl" (Dwayne Washington of Syracuse), who went 13th to New Jersey.
After 20 picks Smith went upstairs to watch another TV by himself.
After the first round, WTBS surprisingly left the draft to go back to regular programming, leaving most of the watchers dumbfounded. "It's no big deal," McKenzie said, leaving. A local television crew, on hand to record the big moment, also packed up and left.
Smith went outdoors to sit alone. "I should have stayed home by myself," he said.
Finally the word came through. Smith sat and muttered, "45th. . . . Oh, man." But his parents applauded and the Gerstens pointed out that he was the first West Coast player to go. Smith's mood brightened.
He's Still Pleased
"Honestly, I thought I'd go in the second round," he said. "I heard anywhere from 20 to 30. I was looking at every pick, thinking, 'This is it.'
"I've got to be pleased. It's an honor to go in the first two rounds no matter where it is. The injury did make me go lower than anticipated--they were talking about first round the whole season. So I knew they were thinking about me.
"I'm going to an organization that's successful. It's up to me to go in and make the team."
Smith averaged 25 points as a junior and 21 last season and led the West Coast Athletic Conference in assists both years. He said he anticipates being used as a playmaker but adds, "whatever they need, I'll do. If they let Keith Smith do what Keith can do, I'll be OK."
McKenzie finally heard about his selection from Coach Paul Westhead while playing at school. McKenzie was pleased but typically low-key. "I'm picked. Now I've got to go make it," he said, adding that he knows nothing about the Spurs organization. "I'm just staying in shape right now until I leave. No use getting excited--it's not going to do me any good to get that way."