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Early NBA reviews mixed

Their athleticism impresses, but the early consensus appears to be that Mbah a Moute and Jefferson need more seasoning.

May 29, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- David Fizdale, once an all-city player at Los Angeles Fremont High, is for a few days this week the head coach of Team 6 at the Orlando NBA pre-draft camp.

The Atlanta Hawks' assistant knows all eyes really are on his players, two of whom happen to be UCLA junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and USC freshman Davon Jefferson. And Fizdale's synopsis is brief.

"Luc plays hard and really gets defense," he said. "Jefferson is so athletic. But another year of school can't hurt them."

Mbah a Moute still has a choice, though he said being a second-round NBA pick, even without a guaranteed contract, would tempt him.

"I really want to be in the NBA next year," he said.

For Jefferson, school is no longer an option since he signed with an agent. And by Wednesday's end, it was clear it won't be easy for him: With a bag of ice taped to his left shoulder, he told another player on the way to the bus, "Man, my body hurts everywhere."

Nothing will be easy at this pre-draft camp, which ends Friday.

In Team 6's first game Wednesday, they beat Team 5, 75-70, behind 17 points from former Idaho guard Mike Taylor. Mbah a Moute had nine points, two turnovers, five rebounds, a steal and made three of six free throws in 19 minutes 25 seconds. Jefferson had seven points, six rebounds and three assists in about 20 minutes.

Fizdale said what Mbah a Moute does well (play defense) and what physical gifts he has (long arms and some jumping ability) don't necessarily make him a star here, where 64 players on six teams in three games are all trying to impress NBA scouts. And Jefferson needs to show some spunk, needs to drip sweat to prove he really cares.

Three scouts -- one from an NBA East team, one from an NBA West team and one from an Italian league team -- gave access to their reports with the caveat that their name and affiliation not be used publicly. They do not want to give away information that might indicate whether or where they might consider drafting players.

Next to Jefferson's name the Italian scout jotted down, "Buen athlete. Con poco defense," which seems easily translated to "Good athlete, plays little defense."

The Eastern team scout wrote of Mbah a Moute, "long arms, active, seems a little lost," and the Western team scout, after Mbah a Moute missed an open 15-foot jump shot and then turned the ball over after passing up an open jump shot said, "Needs to play three in NBA, doesn't have three offensive ability yet. Defensive horse."

Mbah a Moute doesn't want to hear whether an Italian scout likes his game or not. While he yearns to play in the NBA next season, playing in Europe is not an option.

"I'd come back to UCLA for sure over Europe," Mbah a Moute said.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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