COLUMN: NBA draft this: At least I tried

by Packy Saunders

Last Saturday, I was discussing the upcoming NBA draft with Eric Singletary. We talked about his teammate Tommy McGhee's chances of being a first-round selection and what it takes to enter the draft early. Since it takes more ego than talent, I figured I could go first round too. It was then that I heard a still, small voice calling me to enter the draft. Eric didn't think I would; his doubt was enough to get me to fax the following letter to the NBA:

Rod Thorn

Vice President, Operations

National Basketball Association

Dear Mr. Thorn:

I, Patrick Saunders of Rice University, am writing to declare myself eligible for the 1996 National Basketball Association Player Draft, foregoing my final year of NCAA eligibility. I am making this action independent of an agent as I am still interviewing for responsible representation.

If it is the case that I am not drafted, I will continue to actively seek workouts and summer league play in hopes of finding a spot on a 1996-97 NBA roster.

Once again, I have made this difficult decision without an agent. The Rice Thresher , the university's official student newspaper, has agreed to handle all of my correspondence with the league until I have an agent.

Yours truly,

Patrick "Packy" Saunders

SSN: ***-**-****

Everyone who saw the letter liked it. Some encouraged me to take my story to the Houston Chronicle . Knowing that they have a Rice basketball media guide, I left the Chronicle alone to avoid suspicion. What I did resent was the fact that I was not yet acknowledged by ESPN's Web site. In an effort to change this, I let them know I was leaving Rice to enter the draft. ESPN sent this response:

Thank you for contacting us with this problem. We will check it out and correct the problem as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

ESPNET SportsZone

Within an hour after this message was received from ESPN, an angry NBA official called Thresher Editor in Chief Vivek Rao demanding to know what the hell was going on. Vivek left me this memo.

To: Packy

Subject: NBA draft

Jim Wilson from NBA security called. ... He would not believe me when I said that I was not certain of your intentions and that you might be serious about it. He asked about your age and height. I said you were 21 and about 6-0. He did not identify himself at first, and he got me to tell him that you were our managing editor. When he learned this, he asked if we were doing this for publicity and as a prank. He complained that we were wasting their time. He asked that you call him at 212-4**-8***.


Well, I got a hold of Jim Wilson today. I guess I chickened out because I forwardly apologized. In my head all these explanations were brewing: How I would say that because I couldn't get tickets, I thought I might get a seat on the bench or even a simple " I love this game ." If I had gone far enough to contact them, why not keep it up? But something inside held me back.

Mr. Wilson did not yell at me; but like a father disappointed in his son, he admonished me for the large amount of time I wasted as the NBA does very thorough and careful work with underclassmen entering the draft -- and up until the time of my confession they were beginning to pay attention to me. Somebody has to take care of the 19-year-old millionaire-to-be brats.

Since I likely won't get picked in this year's draft, I am exploring free agency. Maybe Tommy McGhee and I could be a package deal. If not, I'll have to find out from Lisa Widner what the IM eligibility rules are for NBA draft has-beens.

This item appeared in the Sports section of the May 17, 1996 issue.

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