Vucevic, Allen ready for big success with Sixers


Friday, June 24, 2011
Posted: 3:58 p.m.

By Dei Lynam

Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen proudly held their Sixers jerseys that represent the next phases of their basketball careers when the two were introduced to the Philadelphia media at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Vucevic, who was selected at No. 16, is ready to do for the Sixers what he was able to do for his college team (USC): bring his fundamentally sound European game and a 7-foot frame.

I felt like I wanted to come here (United States) because I thought college was a great place for me to improve and change my game, Vucevic explained of his decision to forfeit turning pro in Montenegro to go first to a prep school and then attend USC for three years. I definitely feel I made the right decision because if I had stayed in Europe, I dont think I would have made it to the NBA.

The Sixers said that they have been following Vucevic for the past two years when his scoring average went from 10 points per game to 17 and his rebounds improved by one. The 20 year old started last season around 75th on the Sixers prospect list, but his junior year was impressive, landing him on the first team all Pac-10. And then in mid-May, he greatly helped his draft status with his performance at the Chicago pre-draft combine.

Doug Collins who attended the press conference but was not sitting on the dais with his two newest players, believes Vucevic greatly benefited from playing for two coaches at the USC who formerly coached in the NBA.

The knock on the European guys over there is that sometimes people think they are soft and he (Nikola) said I wanted to go and play in the States because it made me a tougher player, Collins said. He played his first year for Tim Floyd and his last two for Kevin ONeill. I have a great thing going now because he is going to think I am an angel compared to Kevin ONeill.

The thing I love about him, Collins said. A post game doesnt mean you always have to score in the post but can you play through the post? We feel very strongly that Spencer Hawes will take a step up where we can play through the post because he is such a good passer and we know Nik can do that as well. He provides a big target inside. He catches it. You can cut off of him. He finds the open man. He passes well out of a double team. He passes out left hand. He passes out right hand.

Collins couldnt say enough about the things Vucevic is capable of doing on the basketball court and he should know. Collins watched every offensive possession Vucevic made this year for the Trojans. That is the passionate driven basketball guy that the Sixers head coach is.

Vucevic is an avid NBA fan who grew up watching Michael Jordan and the other stars of that era. Nowadays he has two NBA players in particular that he enjoys watching and its no coincidence that are both from overseas.

I try to learn from every player I watch. There are so many great players in the NBA and you can learn from every player, Vucevic explained. But I like to watch Pau Gasol a lot. I mean his skill level is unbelievable. What he does in the post is great. I think I can I can learn from him in the way he uses his body and moves around. And I like Dirk (Nowitzki) a lot. I think the things he does I dont think anyone else can do so I am not going to try and do the stuff he does.

Vucevic garnered most of the attention at the 25-minute news conference because he was the Sixers first-round selection, but Allen, in his soft-spoken way, fielded a few questions about being selected by his hometown team. He began by sharing his experience of learning he was selected.

I was actually by myself, Allen said of watching the draft when his name was called. I was a little nervous but once the Sixers picked me I got a lot of phone calls.

Allen was unsure if he would actually get picked and therefore wanted to watch the draft alone.

As it turned out, he was selected during a commercial break of the television broadcast but for those following the draft on the internet, the news came instantaneously. Allens college coach, Fran Dunphy who attended the news conference, had an inside track, or so he thought, on where his star pupil was going.

There was a team that I talked to the last couple days and they said if they were going to pick a big in the second round it would be him, Dunphy said. As it turned out they did pick a big but it wasnt him. I was disappointed by that and then just thrilled.

It was interesting because I am watching ESPN, Dunphy said. They cut to a commercial and then I get a text from Frank Sciolla who was his high school coach who did a fabulous job coaching him and it said, wow! And then I got another text from Brian Boyle (family friend) saying congrats on Lavoy going to the Sixers. I said what are you talking about and then they come back from commercial and there it was. It was really a neat thing.

During the draft broadcast one of the analyst said that Allen has first-round talent. That may be true, which is what the Sixers are counting on, but the reason Allen slipped to the 50th pick is because his motivation is in question.

I have heard people say that I have to play with more energy, a higher motor, Allen said. I just want to go out there and compete and try to work on every aspect of my game. I am just trying to get better as an overall player.

Allen admits that his low-key personality can occasionally give the wrong impression that he isnt trying his hardest.

In college I played a lot of minutes and at times I tried to pace myself, he justified. And that could be taken as he doesnt want to be out there or he is not playing hard. But if I get the opportunity to play here, it will be in short minutes and I can give it all I got.

And as team president Rod Thorn pointed out, Collins is an equal opportunity coach: you play well, you play. Friday was about celebrating getting to the pros, now the real work begins for both prospects.

Email E-mail Dei Lynam at Follow her on Twitter @DLynamCSN.

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