Wolf Pack’s McGee works out for the Sixers | NevadaAppeal.com
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Wolf Pack’s McGee works out for the Sixers

By Andy Jasner

SPECIAL TO THE NEVADA APPEAL

PHILADELPHIA ” Even with marked improvement in his sophomore season at the University of Nevada, JaVale McGee still was a bit unsure if he was ready to make such a big leap into the NBA draft.

What eventually changed his mind?

That’s easy: His mother told him.

“She didn’t think I was ready after my freshman year, but after my sophomore year, she said I was ready,” McGee said.

It was high praise from Pamela McGee, an All-America who won back-to-back national championships at USC in 1983 and ’84. She also played and coached in the WNBA while McGee’s father, George Montgomery, was also a standout player at Illinois and a second-round draft choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in ’85.

Judging by the number of teams interested in McGee, he’ll likely be a first-round pick when the draft takes place on June 26. So far, he has worked out for the Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers.

He spent more than an hour at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers’ practice facility, showcasing his skills for team brass including senior vice president and assistant general manager Tony DiLeo, president and general manager Ed Stefanski and coach Maurice Cheeks.

McGee went through a battery of tests along with Oregon State’s C.J. Giles and Grand Valley (Mich.) State’s Callistus Eziukwu.

The Sixers, who own the 16th overall pick in the draft, have been scouting McGee for quite a while and came away impressed after Friday’s workout.

“We knew a lot about McGee,” DiLeo said. “He’s long and tall, has length and athleticism and a good skill set. He’s still a ways away as far as filling out his body and getting stronger. But he’s one of the players we’re looking at who has a lot of potential. Whoever gets him will have to work with him and he’s definitely a player with a lot of talent and a lot of potential.”

The 7-foot McGee displayed that potential in his sophomore season at Nevada where he was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference Second Team and to the league’s All-Defensive Team. He finished his college career ” two seasons ” as fourth all-time in blocked shots (122) in school history. McGee also ranks fourth all-time in career field goal percentage (.542).

But it was his sophomore season which really attracted the interest of the NBA. He improved his scoring average from 3.3 to 14.1 and his rebounding average from 2.2 to 7.3 per game. McGee scored 20 or more points seven times with a career-high 26 on 12-of-14 shooting against Louisiana Tech.

“He has a lot of potential with a high ceiling,” DiLeo said. “If he continues to work hard, he can be a very good player.”

McGee believes the extra work he did in the summer between his freshman and sophomore year played a large role in his improvement statistically.

“I worked over the summer after my freshman year,” McGee said. “I was in the weight room a lot. I think more playing time had a lot to do with it, too.”

McGee said he thoroughly enjoyed his two years at Nevada. As he goes through what can be an exhausting series of pre-draft workouts, he’s learning to enjoy this as well. Four or five more workouts are planned.

“It’s fun and exciting,” said McGee, who has signed with agent Roosevelt Barnes. “It’s kind of tiring. As long as you get your rest and eat good food, you’re cool.”

When the pre-draft process closes and it’s time for the actual draft later this month, that’s when it will really start to become real for McGee.

If he’s not invited to New York, he’s not sure where he will watch the event or how he’ll handle the jitters that go along with it.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” McGee said. “I might go to New York if they invite me. I’m not sure.”

What’s almost certain is this: He’ll be invited somewhere on draft night.

“I’m excited,” McGee said with a smile. “It’s a fun time.”