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McGee’s gamble pays off

While JaVale McGee was trying to decide whether to turn pro or remain at UNR for another season, one number kept coming into play — 20.

If he was certain he would be picked No. 20 or higher in the NBA Draft on June 26, he would leave after his sophomore season. If predraft feedback indicated otherwise, McGee would still be a member of the Wolf Pack.

The collective opinion of NBA general managers and scouts pegged the 7-foot center as a mid-first-rounder. He took a chance and entered the draft, and the Washington Wizards selected him at No. 18.

"I wasn’t worried," McGee said Friday before logging 11 points and four rebounds in the Wizards’ 72-69 win over Cleveland in the NBA Summer League at Cox Pavilion. "Everyone said I’d go above 20. That was the magic number for me."

McGee is one of four former UNR players competing this week in Las Vegas. Nick Fazekas (L.A. Clippers), Marcelus Kemp (L.A. Lakers) and Ramon Sessions (Milwaukee) are the others. The fact he went in the first round confirms McGee’s belief he did the right thing in coming out early.

"We talked about it as a family and decided this was a better situation," he said. "You never know what can happen next year. You can get injured."

His play at the summer league also indicates he might have made the correct decision. He started slowly as most rookies do. But with each game, he’s becoming more comfortable, his confidence is growing, and his numbers are rising.

McGee is averaging 10 points and five rebounds. He’s attacking the basket on offense and holding his ground at the defensive end.

"I think I’ve played OK," McGee said. "I’m getting more comfortable out there. The big difference between here and college is it’s a much more physical game at this level."

The Wizards are in no rush with McGee. With Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to lean on and learn from, McGee can develop at his own pace, particularly offensively.

"They just want me to rebound and block shots, so that’s what I’m trying to do," McGee said. "I’m not really worried about how many shots I take."

That should come easy for McGee. He led the Western Athletic Conference in blocks with 92 last season.

"There’s no pressure on him to produce," Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. "He just turned 20. We can be patient. We have a veteran ballclub. But he’s a competitive kid, and how quickly he develops is up to him."

McGee also is the answer to a fun piece of basketball trivia. His mom, Pamela, was an All-America and a two-time national champion at Southern California in 1983 and ’84, won an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and played and coached in the WNBA. The McGees are the first mother-son WNBA-NBA combination.

"I don’t really think about it unless someone brings it up," he said. "But, yeah, I guess it’s pretty cool."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2913.

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