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Afflalo, Pruitt share draft paths

The friends from rivals UCLA and USC, both guards who gave up their last year of NCAA eligibility, will rely on same agent to help them.

June 27, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Close friends through high school, archrivals in college who both chose to give up their final year of NCAA eligibility, Arron Afflalo and Gabe Pruitt are sharing something else they hope will help them become first-round NBA draft choices.

An agent, Sam Goldfeder.

Afflalo was a ninth-grade basketball player of modest fame and emerging talents when he met Goldfeder, a friend of Compton Centennial Coach Rod Palmer. This spring, that acquaintance turned into a professional relationship after Afflalo left UCLA following an All-American season and second consecutive Final Four appearance.

Less than a month later, Pruitt, an All-Pacific 10 Conference performer from USC, also hired Goldfeder.

His reasoning: "Arron is known for hanging around only good people. So I figured I couldn't make a mistake if I chose the same agent."

Two guards, each wavering between second-round obscurity and the security of the guaranteed contracts afforded first-round selections, depending on the same person to best navigate and advise them?

"It's a little bit unusual," said one NBA scout whose team has auditioned Afflalo and Pruitt. "It might be a little harder for Sam to work in the best interests of both players. But it's not impossible."

Jerry Reynolds, the former Sacramento general manager and director of player personnel who is now an analyst on the Kings' radio network, said that while it might not hurt Afflalo and Pruitt to have the same agent, "it certainly doesn't help."

And Aran Smith, president of NBADraft.net, whose latest predictions have Afflalo being picked No. 26 in the first round by Houston and Pruitt going to Dallas as the fourth pick of the second round (No. 34 overall), said it was "an interesting situation" that Afflalo and Pruitt share an agent.

Goldfeder, a Brooklyn-raised lawyer who worked as an attorney in Philadelphia before moving to Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, says he has plenty of time for each of his two Los Angeles prospects.

Placing them in the best situation is a tricky task.

Afflalo is a strong, tenacious defender who averaged 16.9 points and shot 37.5% from three-point range last season. However, even though he was a consensus choice among college basketball's top five players, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is projected anywhere from near the bottom of the first round to the midway point of the second round in most mock drafts.

One knock on Afflalo is that when UCLA's offense bogged down, he struggled to create his own shots.

Some observers have suggested that Afflalo might have been better served by staying at UCLA one more season to benefit from the polished passing skills of incoming freshman Kevin Love.

Pruitt is 6-3, averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 assists and shot 35% from three-point range for the Trojans. He was academically ineligible for USC's first 11 games, came on strong at the end of the regular season and during the postseason, but has drawn the ire of some scouts for choosing not to accept his invitation to the NBA-sponsored pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla. Afflalo also chose to skip that showcase.

It was at the Orlando workout a year ago where UCLA guard Jordan Farmar wowed observers with a sterling exhibition of physical skills and solid play in pickup games and one-on-one drills.

Farmar then shot up the draft charts, rising from a probable second-round choice to owner of a guaranteed contract as the Lakers' first-round selection.

"Orlando was very good for Jordan," Goldfeder said. "He played very well, his testing numbers were great. But if you look at the overall numbers in the past couple of years, I think two years ago one guy who went to Orlando was drafted in the first round and last year it was two guys.

"I felt with Gabe's body of work, it felt like a greater risk than necessary for Gabe to go to Orlando."

Said Pruitt: "I think it was better for me to just work out and keep getting in shape. I have no regrets about missing Orlando."

Afflalo chose to work out in San Francisco with a private trainer during the pre-draft camp, an effort he says helped him gain nearly 10 pounds while lowering his body fat percentage.

Goldfeder said Pruitt has worked out for Phoenix, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington, Houston, San Antonio and Utah.

Afflalo said he worked out for Houston, Philadelphia, Utah and San Antonio as well as Charlotte, Seattle and the Lakers.

Afflalo -- who spoke Sunday from Charlotte, where he was preparing to undergo his final private workout -- said that though he and Pruitt are close friends, they haven't spoken much during their workouts and didn't cross paths even at the places where they both played.

"Gabe works out with the point guards," Afflalo said, "I work out with the shooting guards. Different positions. We're definitely not competing with each other for draft spots."

Afflalo said he was a bit surprised when he heard Pruitt had also signed with Goldfeder. "I think that happened quickly," Afflalo said. "We didn't talk about it."

After all, Reynolds said, "Honestly, I don't think an agent has anything to do with where players go. NBA teams draft on talent, not what agents talk them into."

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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