Five former GW basketball players flirted with the American professional ranks this summer, but with the WNBA season winding down and the NBA season gearing up, the chances are dimming that a Colonial will suit up this year with a professional franchise.
In June, Tajama Abraham, a 1997 graduate and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, was cut from the Detroit Shock before the start of the 1999 WNBA season. The Shock was Abraham’s second WNBA team, having been drafted two years earlier by the Sacramento Monarchs. Abraham did not make another WNBA roster.
In July, Yinka Dare, who was Sports Illustrated’s Freshman of the Year in 1993, participated in the Phoenix Suns’ three-day rookie and free-agent camp that was held at America West Arena.
Dare was drafted with the 14th pick in the first-round of the 1994 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets. The Nigerian’s last NBA action came with the Orlando Magic in the 1997-’98 season. Dare did not apparently catch on with the Suns in July, but he did take the time to explain some of his problems to The Arizona Republic. Dare, who had only played basketball for one year prior to his stay in Foggy Bottom said he needs more experience, but experience is hard to come by.
“It’s a Catch-22 situation,” Dare said to The Republic. “I need the playing time to improve, but I can’t get the playing time. I still think I’ve improved a lot. I just need to find a comfortable situation and get in my zone.”
The seven-foot Dare said in July he feels fully recovered from the surgery that he had on both knees his rookie year.
“Now I just want to show everyone what I’ve got,” he said to The Republic.
Another former GW center and seven-foot foreigner, Alexander Koul, tested the NBA waters while playing in the New Jersey Nets’ summer league in Boston. From Turkey, Koul said in an e-mail reply to The Hatchet that the Nets told him they liked him a lot, but that their center position was already filled.
Koul graduated in 1998 and was not drafted. Since his college days, Koul has been playing overseas, and he will again this year.
“I signed a one-year contract with first division team Konya Kombassan,” Koul wrote. “Even though I already received an invitation to the Nets’ veterans’ camp, I will not go there. I don’t want to risk an opportunity to have a very good experience playing in one of the strongest European leagues (Turkish championship).”
But Koul wrote that he is not done with the NBA.
“The NBA dream will always be alive,” he wrote. “I’ll be back in the U.S. next summer trying – out or working out with teams who are interested in me.”
GW’s most recent donations to the NBA prospect pool, Yegor Mescheriakov and Shawnta Rogers, both joined Koul in the Nets’ summer league and, in fact, they all played on the same team.
“Playing with Shawnta and Yegor was like being at the family reunion,” Koul wrote. “It was great to see them again on and off the court. I enjoyed the opportunity to play with my former GW teammates.”
Both Mescheriakov and Rogers were passed over this summer in the NBA draft held at the MCI Center. Both players were drafted by the United States Basketball League’s Washington Congressionals last spring, and Rogers was drafted by the International Basketball League’s Baltimore franchise this summer, although it does not appear either player will be pursuing those options in the immediate future.
Mescheriakov did not respond to an e-mail request, but he is reportedly set to play in Florence, Italy this year. According to GW head coach Tom Penders, Mescheriakov also received an invitation to come to the Nets’ veterans’ camp in October, but he too elected to go with the sure thing in Europe.
Rogers, who also spent many of his summer nights playing at “The Dome” in Baltimore, seemed to turn the most heads this summer and many believe he is GW’s best chance to make the NBA this year.
“I don’t really want to go overseas,” Rogers said from Baltimore Sunday, where he plans to stay until the Nets’ veterans’ camp, which he was also invited to attend.
Rogers will play at the camp, but he doesn’t know what team offers him the best chance to play. He says he may have a shot with the Nets and he firmly believes, if given a chance, he will show everyone how unimportant size is.
“He did extremely well up in Boston,” said Penders. “But he’s got to prove himself all over again, just like he had to do in high school.”
* In case you were wondering, Tajama Abraham was born and raised in the same locale that NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan was: St. Croix, Virgin Islands.
* GW alum Abe Pollin officially sold his controlling interest in the Washington Capitals to an ownership group led by Ted Leonsis July 12. Although Pollin also sold some interest in the Wizards and the MCI Center, he still controls those entities.
* Penders reports that Shawnta Rogers is close to earning true status as an alumnus, despite enrolling at GW in the spring semester of his freshman year.
“He stayed and took summer classes and is close to graduating in less than four years,” said Penders. “He really took care of business.”
This article appeared in the August 23, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.