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That Had to Hurt

Knee injury puts a crimp in Sam Clancy's plan for the NBA draft

June 26, 2002|PAUL GUTIERREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sam Clancy had a plan.

The former USC power forward would go through individual workouts with NBA teams, rather than participate in the pre-draft camps, impress prospective employers and, with his Pacific 10 Conference player-of-the-year season on his updated resume, solidify his position as a first-round draft pick. Maybe even turn himself into a lottery choice, one of the first 13 players selected.

But Clancy's plan derailed May 13, in his first outing, when he dislocated his left kneecap and tore a tendon during a workout with the Phoenix Suns. Clancy, who'd suffered the same injuries as a high school sophomore, underwent surgery to strengthen the knee and did not visit any other teams after the procedure.

Out of sight and, seemingly, out of mind, Clancy, a second-team All-American, is not sure now if he'll even be selected in the first round of tonight's draft in New York.

Only first-round draft picks receive guaranteed contracts.

"It affected me because I couldn't work out for teams and they couldn't see me firsthand, so it definitely hurts [my status]," said Clancy, who spent a month of rehab in Los Angeles before returning to his home in Cleveland. "I've heard that this draft is just crazy. From the No. 15 pick to the end of the first round, nobody has any clue where they're going.

"But I'm not that frustrated. I'm not worried or scared. I know I'm still late first round to early second round. That's my range."

His range should have been better after leading the Trojans in scoring (19.1 points), rebounding (9.4) and blocked shots (48). Plus, he had already played in the Chicago pre-draft camp after his junior season, where he'd led in scoring and rebounding before pulling his name from the early-entrant list and returning to USC. He was listed as a late first-round pick last summer.

This time around, Clancy had planned to work out for 15 teams. Instead, he has had to put his faith in his agent, Bob Meyer, to extol his client's virtues by sending out videotapes of Clancy in action, along with medical records and doctors' statements claiming that Clancy is fine.

NBA scouting guru Marty Blake compared Clancy's predicament to the one experienced by former Texas forward Chris Owens, whose season abruptly ended in December when he tore a ligament in his right knee.

"Without those injuries, they'd both go very high," Blake said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Guys with the ability of Owens and Clancy should go high, as long as the doctors say they're OK.

"Everyone knows about Clancy. He's a quick jumper and a tuned player. He's aggressive and that's going to help him, as long as he's healthy."

Clancy said that although his injury and subsequent surgery would not allow him to play for his new team's summer league squad, he would be able to take part in training camp from the start.

"If that's the case, then that's great," Blake said. "Will he fall [in the draft]? That's hard to say. But if he's fully recovered and he does slip a little [but stays in the first round], he'll go to a better team and be able to hone his skills."

The 240-pound Clancy's height was listed generously by USC as 6 feet 7, which some think is undersized for an NBA power forward. Blake took issue.

"I've heard the knock that he's too small," Blake said. "Look, Charles Barkley was not 12 feet tall. Sam Clancy can play.

"If he slips, somebody's going to get a hell of a player."

And if he goes in the first round, he'll be the third Trojan to go that high since 1980, joining Harold Miner, No. 12 in 1992, and Rodrick Rhodes, No. 24 in 1997.

Clancy said, "There's no one place I want to go above everywhere else, though I'd like to go someplace where I haven't been before. A change of scenery would be nice."

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