Grizzard begins career a Wizard

TUSCALOOSA - Rod Grizzard became the 35th University of Alabama men's basketball player to be drafted into the NBA Wednesday night when the Birmingham native was drafted by the Washington Wizards as the overall 37th pick but taken in the second round.

It gives the Crimson Tide, which has produced 14 first round NBA picks, back-to-back seasons with players' names called on draft night as Gerald Wallace went to the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft.

Grizzard will begin his pro career as a Washington Wizard.

"I'm excited that players from this program continue to get selected in the NBA draft," said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. "I was hoping he'd have been selected higher but I believe in him and I believe Rod will make the best of this situation with the Wizards."

Grizzard watched the draft from his Birmingham home with his parents, Troy and Mary Grizzard, family member, friends and Alabama teammates Erwin Dudley, Antoine Pettway, Terrance Meade, Reggie Rambo, Kenny Walker and Demetrius Smith and freshman Evan Brock.

Grizzard has been a starter at guard for the Crimson Tide for the past three seasons. Grizzard, a junior in 2002, leaves Alabama with a 14.9 points per game and 5.8 career rebounds per game average. He ranks 13th all-time in scoring at Alabama with 1,487 career points.

"I found out when everybody else found out," said Grizzard Wednesday night who, like the rest of the TNT live broadcast viewers found out he was a Wizard when his face flashed across the screen. His teammates at Washington will include Michael Jordan.

"I met him a long time ago. He invited me to be a counselor at his camp, but I didn't go. I guess he kept up with me," said Grizzard who had not talked to Jordan since declaring for the draft this past spring.

Grizzard ranks 13th on the Alabama career scoring list.

Grizzard says he thought going in he might be a late first round pick but after getting injured during a draft workout in Philadelphia, he realized the road would be tougher. "I got hurt and wasn't able to play. I kind of figured it hurt my chances but my agent (Joel Bell) and I talked it over and he said maybe you'll go in the second round-it's still an option. I was like, 'cool, as long as I make the team I'm fine,' and it happened. I got drafted 37th, but I'm still on the team.

"I didn't get my head down when they didn't call my name in the first round. I know I have to work hard. This is kind of a wake up call for me but I'm excited about the other guys we drafted and you've got Michael on the team with all those rings. It's going to be a tremendous experience," said Grizzard. "I'm honored that the best player that ever played the game is on my team. I'll learn a little bit and then you never know what will happen from there."

Grizzard said he expected to hear very late Wednesday night his plans for the next few days but expected that they would include a trip to join his new team on Thursday.

In other draft news involving Alabama players, former Tide player Antonio McDyess was traded from Denver to the New York Knicks where his teammates include former Tide player Latrell Sprewell.

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