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July 2, 2004
Disappointment turned to delight this week for Peter John Ramos, Puerto Rico's 7-foot center who was selected by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the NBA new player draft last week in New York's Madison Square Garden.
Heartbroken over not drawing a first-round pick last week, Ramos cheered up considerably after spending two days this week in Washington with Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld and other team officials. Dinner, a private workout and a physical were all involved, as was a psychological test. According to his mentor Felo Rivera, Ramos passed with flying colors. Although Rivera would not discuss the economic ramifications, all signs point to the Wizards signing Ramos to a multi-year deal, which may not be a bad thing for the 19-year-old.
"Because he's a second round player, they [the Wizards] want to protect themselves to ensure that if they develop him, some other team isn't going to come along then and take him away."
Of course, second-round draft pick is something Ramos never thought he would live down last week as he walked dejectedly out of the Madison Square Garden theater at the end of the first round and never even heard his name called by the Wizards. Never mind that going in the second round is a fantastic accomplishment for any kid from Brooklyn with a basketball jones; Ramos had set his sights high.
For the Puerto Rican U-21 team center, it was first-round or nothing.
And his expectations were not unfounded. He was shopped around to the NBA ball clubs during April and May and was so convinced that Portland had their eyes on him that he had taken to wearing a Blazers cap the week leading up to the draft.
"I'm not a second-round player," was what Ramos kept repeating over and over to the media following the draft.
"I thought Portland was our ace in the hole," said Ramos' agent Andrew Vye in his post-draft analysis. "I thought the thing that threw it was when Boston picked Delonte West and Tony Allen back-to-back [picks 24 and 25].
It was only after going to Washington earlier this week and finally meeting Grunfeld that Ramos' mood changed, said mentor Rivera, owner of the Caguas Criollos, for whom Ramos plays in Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League.
"No matter what happens, the minimum salary he can make is still $400,000 and that's still a lot of money," he said.
Ramos' agent, Vye, also sees the glass half full.
"They are not strapped down by the rookie wage scale in place by David Stern so he could sign a three-year deal with a fourth-year option," said Vye, who insists that the selection of Ramos in the second round was a blessing in disguise, especially because there is space on the Wizards roster for a big man.
"That's no problem having a chip on his shoulder [over not being a first-round pick]. That means he can come out next year and make it work. In three to four years we're going to be saying a lot of 'I told you so's.' I think it will all prove out in the end."
Vye said he didn't think Ramos was passed up in the first round due to a lack of playing time. During the SBL season, Ramos was frequently criticized by basketball analysts for his lack of aggressiveness in the paint.
"He played 100 pro games [in the SBL] and has the experience," said Vye. "I just think the European players are the flavor of the month in the NBA. The difference between the Peter and the European players is they drill them in the fundamentals. But everything Peter can't do is teachable."
Ramos has already improved by leaps and bounds from the day he arrived in Puerto Rico at age 14. He was almost seven feet tall by then and had never really played organized basketball. Rivera moved the entire Ramos family from Brooklyn, enrolled Ramos and his sister in Caguas' Baptist Academy and put him under the tutelage of coach Leonell Arill.
"Physically he is at about 60 percent of his body's capacity," said Carlos Calcano, Ramos' coach on the U-21 Puerto Rican team.
What's left to do now is to try to negotiate the best possible contract under the current circumstances. No matter what happens,
Ramos will be spending considerable time on the bench next year as he learns the NBA game.
"He's aware of that, we explained it to him," said Rivera, who added, "we're gonna make this happen."
Expos return to San Juan
The Montreal Expos return to their Caribbean timeshare this weekend to host the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game series, followed by three-game stands with the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.