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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

International big men get nod of NBA scouts

NBA teams are looking for a Dirk Nowitzki type.

They're looking for someone who looks like Nowitzki, and plays like Nowitzki.

They're looking for a 7-footer who shoots like a 6-footer.

They're looking for a re-creation of Nowitzki, a once-in-a-lifetime talent with the Dallas Mavericks, knowing full well there may never be another one.

NBA scouts prefer 6-11 international players like Andrea Bargnani who stand at the 3-point line, when they don't hold American big men to the same standard.

An American big man who doesn't like the rough stuff is labeled "soft."

An international big man who camps out on the perimeter is labeled "lottery pick."

Bargnani was the No. 1 overall pick in Wednesday night's draft more for the fact that he reminds scouts of Nowitzki than for who he really is.

It's wishful thinking. Not to mention an unfair double standard.

What does anyone in this country really know about Bargnani, other than what they see of him on film flicking in 3-pointers?

Compare the NBAdraft.net scouting reports on Bargnani and West Virginia's Kevin Pittsnogle, a 6-11, 255-pounder who's also regarded for his outstanding shooting touch.

Bargnani is described as having "soft hands to shoot from the 3 and mid-range, that's his best quality. Excellent athletic skills. Good ball-handler, beats man off dribble. Not tough under the basket. Needs to increase body strength, rebounding and defense. Relies on jumper too much."

Pittsnogle is beefier and slower than Bargnani; however, Pittsnogle is a "tremendous shooting big man. Adept at hitting shots with a player in his face. On the next level, he will spread the floor, forcing a big man to guard him on the perimeter. His conditioning has also allowed him to play significantly more minutes that he did in previous seasons. Has good competitiveness and toughness. He has added a nice turnaround jump hook."

The NBA believes Bargnani is so much better than Pittsnogle that Toronto made Bargnani the first overall pick based strictly on potential while Pittsnogle went undrafted.

NBA scouting has swung the other way from humongously underrating super center Aryvdas Sabonis some 20 years ago, to now humongously overrating international players.

American players are bearing the brunt of the influx of international players.

Take West Virginia guard Mike Gansey, who was the Ohio Division II high school player of the year in 2000-01.

Gansey could be the second coming of Jeff Hornacek, who entered the NBA with little fanfare to become an elite two-guard.

However, Gansey, despite averaging 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds and shooting 55 percent from the field (including 42.9 percent from 3-point range), went undrafted.

It's been said that Gansey isn't athletic enough to play in the NBA. Prove it.

Gansey had a total of 141 steals against only 123 turnovers in his three college seasons, and averaged 1.9 steals as a senior. You don't get that many steals being unathletic.

In West Virginia's system, Gansey wasn't required to initiate the offense. Plays were drawn up for him; he made a lot of backdoor layups, along with a ton of 3-pointers.

Can Gansey create his own shot in the NBA? The numbers indicate he's more than a slow-footed spot-up shooter, and that some NBA team should give him a chance.

Given the rise of international players in the NBA, and given Gansey's impressive college career, maybe Gansey's agent should have had him change the spelling of his last name to Ganzi, with an accent mark over the "i", and - cha-ching! - instant lottery pick.

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