Big men shine in Blazers pre-draft workout

Centers Tyler Zeller and Meyers Leonard highlight session

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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TUALATIN, Ore. — It sure didn't look like a Trail Blazers workout — and not just because it was the first time any of the players were hooping inside the team's practice facility.

No, the more conspicuous difference between this practice and most of the organization's workouts was the fact that there were two healthy centers on the floor.

The Blazers held their first pre-draft workout Tuesday morning, and headlining the session were big men Tyler Zeller and Meyers Leonard.

Zeller, a 7-footer who spent four years at North Carolina, is the reigning ACC Player of the Year and projected by many mock drafts to be a late lottery pick. Leonard, a 7-foot-1 center from Illinois, played two years with the Illini and is predicted to go somewhere in the late first round.

And even though hundreds of hours have gone into scouting, nerves were still sprinting throughout these guys' veins.

"I was missing a lot of shots that I usually make," said a grinning Zeller, admitting that it wasn't his best workout. "I gotta get settled in. Toward the end I was able to finish."

Zeller added that he thinks he needs to add about 15 pounds in order to pull his weight in the post in the NBA, but feels that he's very adept at running the court.

Leonard, on the other hand, spoke of his physical play and his "being willing to bang" as assets that will help a franchise.

Whatever skill set the two bigs thought they possessed, they wanted to make sure they showcased it Tuesday — even if it was at the other's expense.

"They were very competitive with each other," said Garrett Sim, a University of Oregon product who also was working out Tuesday. "That's all you can ask for.

Sim, 21, went to Sunset High in Portland and attended his first Blazers game when he was 4. He is not, however, projected to be drafted, and said that his primary goal is to make a summer league roster.

"I'm not a big-name guy," Sim said. "But hard work has gotten me a lot of places.

Among the others in Tualatin Tuesday were Old Dominion guard Kent Bazemore, Syracuse forward Kris Joseph, and Long Beach State point guard Casper Ware.

Ware and Joseph and projected as late second-round picks, while Bazemore is currently off the mock draft boards.

No surprise then that 7-footers were the main source of attention Tuesday.

"They (Leonard and Zeller) are both very talented and will get a lot of consideration," Blazers acting general manager Chad Buchanan said. "It's hard to find centers."