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Elliott hopes to feel draft

June 24, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Rodney Elliott has made himself a success by keeping his eye on the prize.

Elliott has been a goal-oriented person as long as he can remember. In the old days, he just wanted to make the Baltimore Dunbar High basketball team. In the future, Elliott says he'd like to open a day-care center.

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But today, the University of Maryland basketball star only wants to hurdle a small milestone. He only wants to hear his name mentioned.

Elliott will be in Baltimore watching tonight's NBA draft unfold on television. The first round will be for pleasure, but the second round is for pressure as he waits to see if he will be one of the 58 players who will be selected in the two-round process.

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"We just want to hear our name called on TV," Elliott said Tuesday after speaking to the Mid-Atlantic Basketball Camp at St. Maria Goretti. "That would be an honor and a privilege to be selected to play in the NBA."

That privilege would have never been considered if Elliott didn't have the work ethic he spoke of to the campers. His drive for NBA success started with rejection.

"I had a group of parents, friends, relatives and coaches around me and behind me for support," Elliott told the group of 100 aspiring stars. "This all started way before this. I was cut from the JV team when I was in ninth grade. I was only 6-foot tall and they didn't think I was good enough."

That made the now 6-8 Elliott mad. Then he was out to get even.

"I called my mentor - a local coach who saw something in me," he said. "He got me geared for basketball. I started playing, shooting and doing drills all year long. By my junior year, I was on the varsity, and we finished three games short of being ranked the No. 1 team in the country."

Playing with former Maryland star Keith Booth and Virginia forward Norman Nolan opened many doors for Elliott. But he opened more doors with his grades, his SAT score and his game.

"Maryland was on the map again," Elliott said. "They saw that I was a good player, a good guy and I had good grades. Maryland was close to home, and (Booth) was already there. Those two things made the choice easy."

Again, Elliott was on a building program. He waited his turn to play at Maryland, working on his game and his body to make it ready for the pounding ahead. It all culminated with the 1997-98 season when he led the Terps to a surprising season and a Sweet 16 spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Now it's time to see if it all pays off.

"I talked to my agent, and he said going from the middle to late in the second round is a possibility," Elliott said. "There's not much more I can do. I kept working hard, and I went to the draft camps and played in front of all the scouts for all the teams. All I can do is wait."

Today's draft has no clear-cut top pick and many teams may make trades to jockey for position. That unpredictability could play to Elliott's favor as the top 10-15 picks could set the tone and decide his future.

Still, Elliott will be watching the draft with his son and father with his fingers crossed, just like Booth did last year when he became the Chicago Bulls' No. 1 pick.

"For (Booth) last year, he watched the draft at home with his family and friends. Leading up to the pick, he had the jitters," Elliott said. "It was dramatic. When he was selected, people where jumping up and down, cheering and crying. But he got the chance to hear his name."

Elliott is prepared though. He knows the draft could be like ninth grade all over.

"Just because I played, it's not promised I'll get drafted," he said. "If I don't get my dream, there are other options and things I can do that could allow me to hear my name on an NBA roster some day. I hope it falls into place. I'm going to keep my phone lines open."

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