[SPORTS] Blazers could dream big with Ha Seung-Jin
- Blazers could dream big with Ha
The 7-foot-3 South Korean teenage center works out for Portland, and
team officials are impressed with what they see
Thursday, May 20, 2004
TUALATIN -- By the time reporters were allowed in the Trail Blazers'
practice facility Wednesday, draft prospect Ha Seung-Jin of South
Korea already had his size 17 sneakers and socks off and was sitting
on a table in the trainer's room.
Despite aggravating a silver dollar-size blister on the bottom of
his right foot, the 7-foot-3, 328-pound center from Seoul seemed in
good spirits after going through an hourlong workout for the
If the 18-year-old blue-chipper could smile after that, he probably
will be positively giddy in five weeks, when he is expected to
become the first Korean-born player taken in the NBA draft.
Ha is projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick,
which means he could end up with almost any team.
And that includes the Blazers.
"He's really interesting because of his potential," Blazers general
manager John Nash said. "He's such a young player. With his size and
physical presence, you can only wonder what he will be three, four
or five years down the road. Certainly, he has the physique to
become a dominant player."
So, how did Wednesday's session go?
"Good," Ha said. "I had a fun time."
That was almost all he had to say, because he still has yet to grasp
English. But he is a 7-3, 238-pound teenager who can rebound. And if
he ends up in Portland next season, Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks
probably will find a way to communicate with him.
The scouting report on Ha is thin. He has been called "the next Yao
Ming," but comparing him to the Houston Rockets' center is unfair,
because other than height and that they're Asian -- Yao is from
Shanghai, China -- they have little in common.
Ha has spent the past six months in Los Angeles, working out under
the guidance of SFX Sports Group -- an international management and
marketing agency -- but those workouts have been off-limits to pro
scouts because Ha still is considered an underclassman.
A few scouts, including Portland's Chico Averbuck, saw Ha play last
August for the South Korean national team at the World Junior
Championships in Greece. The consensus then was the same as it is
now: Ha runs the court decently and has good hands, but he needs to
develop physically, and his game needs to develop, too.
Wednesday was the first opportunity for most of the Blazers' staff
to see Ha and two other prospects -- 6-10, 288-pound Rafael Araujo
from Brigham Young, and 7-3, 316-pound Jerry Sokolowski from Canada.
"I was impressed by all three," Nash said. "You have a different
level of expectation for every player. Rafael is more polished than
the other two, because he's played more and had more experience.
"Ha is much further along at 18 years of age than most of his
contemporaries. I've been around very few players that are bigger
than 7-2, and yet this guy is well-coordinated and is not at all
robotic. He's very fluid. And he impressed the dickens out of us
when he did a full split.
"Do you take a big kid like this in the hopes that he blossoms into
The individual workouts help the coaches who usually don't get a
chance to see prospects during the season, but they are a small part
of the evaluation process. It's also difficult for teams to draw too
many conclusions from individual workouts, because teams aren't
allowed to do any drills that involve more than 2-on-2 play.
"The problem with some of these guys, like this Korean kid, is
nobody has had a long look at them," said Mark Warkentien, the
Blazers' player personnel director.
Still, somebody is going to draft Ha.
"There are 30 first-round picks, but have you seen an NBA draft with
30 good players?" Warkentien asked. "At some point, you run out of
good players and you start dreaming. If you're going to dream, you
might as well dream 7-3 rather than 6-3. If you're going to miss,
Assuming the Blazers don't get lucky in the draft lottery or move up
in the order for the June 24 NBA draft, they will have three picks --
Nos. 13 and 23 in the first round and No. 46 in the second round.
Ha is rated among the top 10 centers in the draft, but he's at the
lower end of the list. That means the Blazers, whose greatest needs
going into the draft are in the backcourt, probably won't use the
13th pick to take a center. And they probably can't wait until the
second round if they hope to select Ha, because he should be gone
long before No. 46.
Jim Beseda: 503-221-8380; jimbeseda@...