Hoop dreams

Tonight’s NBA Draft will put to rest the question of who will be drafted first overall – Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. But there’s much more to it than just the first two picks – there’s an entire second round.

A year ago former USF center Solomon Jones had his name called with the third pick in the second round, and former Bull Melvin Buckley hopes that this year he’ll get a similar call.

Buckley, a 6-foot-7-inch forward, started all 30 games last season for USF, leading the Bulls in scoring most of the season. He finished as the fourth-best three-point shooter in the Big East, but with only two rounds in the draft, his best chance at a professional career is likely to come in free agency or playing overseas.

But don’t tell Buckley that.

“I’m not really ruling (getting drafted) out,” Buckley said via phone interview from Sacramento, where he’s working out. “Anything could happen in that. Crazier things have happened before.”

Already with his second agent since USF’s season ended nearly three months ago, Buckley has been working nonstop to get ready for professional basketball, no matter what league – or country – he ends up in.

Two weeks after playing his last game as a Bull and at the request of his first agent, Buckley went to the Dominican Republic, where he played against professionals for three weeks. He then worked out in Brandon where he says he added 3 inches to his vertical leap.

In Sacramento, Buckley is working out with his former high school teammate and current Sacramento King Justin Williams. He’s also playing in professional-amateur games. So far, Buckley has gone up against Ron Artest, Francisco Garcia and the African National Team.

Buckley knows he’s a long shot for the draft, but it’s not a concern for him. “I’m just trying to make strides,” said Buckley, who averaged 14.8 points last season. “As far as what my agent was saying, a lot of people are feeling like I will be at the next level. And I’m not really worried about European basketball because I feel like that’s already a done deal. I’m just waiting to see what happens in the draft.”

Although Buckley believes he has a chance to get drafted, his agent, Andre Buck, said that’s “not going to happen.” Buck does feel that Buckley has a chance at making an NBA roster as a free agent, but at least one season in Europe seems more likely. “I’m a proponent of playing internationally because outside of NBA that’s the best opportunity to make a good living,” Buck said. “Besides the fact that (playing in Europe) has a lot of life value and experiencing other cultures and other countries, Melvin seems to be the type of young man who would be open to that and would benefit greatly from that.”

Buck also hopes his client benefits from workouts with some NBA teams, which he said will take place over the next few months – a time period that may prove pivotal to Buckley’s career.

“Our objective is to get him in the best situation possible, not necessarily the best in terms of compensation, but the best to get him where we would like to be three years from now,” Buck said. “That’s measured with compensation, the league, the country, the city (and) the coach.”

Playing for one of the worst teams in the Big East the past two years, Buckley and his agent both agreed that he lacked the exposure he deserved. One thing he doesn’t lack, however, is confidence.

“Whether it’s this year or a couple years from now, I’m going to be in the NBA,” Buckley said. “I really feel comfortable that I’ll be there this year, but like I tell everybody else, there’s a lot of money to be made around the world playing the game.”