Drummond ready for challenge

Ex-UConn big man Andre Drummond huddles with youngsters during an NBA fitness clinic at the Childs's Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Boys and Girls Club in Harlem on Wednesday. Drummond is in New York for today's NBA draft.
Ex-UConn big man Andre Drummond huddles with youngsters during an NBA fitness clinic at the Childs's Aid Society Dunlevy Milbank Boys and Girls Club in Harlem on Wednesday. Drummond is in New York for today's NBA draft. Kathy Willens/AP Photo

New York - A relaxed, smiling and sharply dressed Andre Drummond walked into the Westin Hotel ballroom Wednesday for the pre-NBA draft press conference.

There wasn't a hint of nervousness from Drummond, whose life is about to drastically change.

"It really hasn't hit me yet," he said.

Come tonight Drummond will board the express train to the fast-paced and demanding world of the NBA. He's expected to be a high lottery pick in the 2012 draft, which starts at 7 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Former UConn teammate Jeremy Lamb also is a possible lottery selection.

Few, if any, players in this year's draft have generated as much debate as Drummond, an 18-year-old with only one year of college basketball experience - and an inconsistent one at that - but blessed with an abundance of physical gifts.

Some NBA teams fear that Drummond lacks the internal drive and desire to fulfill his enormous potential while others fear passing on the supremely athletic 6-foot-10, 260-pound center would come back to haunt them.

Drummond has blocked out any pre-draft criticism.

"I don't get upset about it," Drummond said, "because no one really knows what I'm capable of doing. ... All I know is that I'm going to come in and work hard and all that talk about me being a bust is going to be put to rest."

During his pre-draft preparation, Drummond has worked tirelessly with a personal trainer, losing 22 pounds. He says he's improved in every area, but his offensive game remains raw by NBA standards.

Drummond visited five teams for workouts - Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland, Sacramento and Portland - which hold picks No. 2 through 6. Anthony Davis of Kentucky is a lock to go first.

At Charlotte and Cleveland, Drummond worked out against Thomas Robinson, a rugged 6-9 forward out of Kansas. Robinson could go as high as No. 2.

"That was probably one of the best two workouts I've ever had," Drummond said.

Robinson, who attended Wednesday's pre-draft press conference, is firm believer that Drummond will develop into productive NBA player. He called him "a freak of nature."

"He's definitely going to make it," Robinson said. "He reminds me of DeAndre Jordan. He's athletic. He's young still so you can't really critique him right now. But he's going to be a great player. He's definitely one of the best athletes that I've seen."

UConn coach Jim Calhoun also believes Drummond is worth a high lottery pick. He added that Drummond has the right attitude and work ethic to continue to develop. Any team that drafts Drummond has to be patient, though.

"Andre has too much potential for anybody to pass him on," Calhoun said. "He's a high character guy, has a great body, great potential, but might not help you right away. He's only 18 years old. There's no reason to believe he won't get better."

Some of the same doubts surround Lamb, a 6-5 shooting guard. He's a tough talent to judge because of his laid-back personality and inconsistent play last season, but has an NBA shooter's touch and a scorer's mentality.

Most mock drafts list Lamb in the 8 to 16 range.

"That would be unfair to Jeremy because he came here, scored a lot of points, helped us win a national championship and win 52 games (in two seasons), and showed his ability to be a terrific shooter," Calhoun said of the criticism. "I would never question Jeremy's work ethic. He's in the gym all the time. He can go into a game and shoot right now. I have no question about that."

An ankle injury shortened Lamb's pre-draft schedule. He suffered the injury while working out for the Toronto Raptors, who hold the No. 8 pick. He was supposed to attend Wednesday's press conference, but Drummond heard that Lamb had an interview with Milwaukee.

Both will be in attendance tonight.

g.keefe@theday.com

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