June 14, 2012

A reach to touch the NBA

June 14, 2012 5:49 AM



Greg Somogyi was already 7 foot and 3 inches tall when he arrived at UCSB in 2008, but his view from up there will be very different when he walks graduation on Sunday.

It's been changed even from the last basketball season when he averaged just 11.8 minutes, 3.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.

At his height, you register on the NBA radar when you can run, catch and shoot in a coordinated fashion.

"I've been pleasantly surprised with the things that have been going on," he said of the attention he's been receiving from several NBA teams. "During the season, I wasn't sure what I'd even be doing this spring."

Somogyi, a sociology major who was stuck behind athletic center Jaime Serna during all four of his Gaucho seasons, opened a few scouts' eyes during a tryout session at UCSB three weeks ago. The NBA forbids them from talking publicly about prospective draft picks, but one leaned toward his club's general manager during a 3-on-3 session and said, "Watch ... he's going to block Ezeli."

Sure enough, Somogyi swatted shot after shot attempted by Festus Ezeli, a 6-11 and 255-pound center from Vanderbilt who has been projected as a late first-round pick in the June 23 NBA Draft.

"I've worked out with him before up in Sacramento," Somogyi said. "He's a really good player, and really physical, and I wanted to prove that I can play against physical guys.

"I always take it as a challenge when someone is considered better than me."

A different scout leaned toward one of UCSB's assistant coaches and said, "We'd like to draft Somogyi, but we don't think he'll be around when we pick in the second round."

Somogyi has already had workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors. The Denver Nuggets will try him out on Monday and the Dallas Mavericks will do the same the following week.

"It's been crazy for me ever since the season ended - even the process of finding an agent," said Somogyi, who settled on Entersports' Daniel Moldovan. "He's been great about spreading the word about me."

The Lakers were so intrigued that their scouting guru, Bill Bertka, kept him for 30 minutes after their workout.

"He gave me some very good insight and said he'd like to keep working with me," Somogyi said. "I was going to play for the Utah Jazz in the NBA summer league they hold in Orlando and then go play for the Lakers in the Las Vegas league, which starts a week later, but the Lakers asked me to change my plans.

"They want me to come to their mini-camp a week before that league."

But those decisions could all be made for Somogyi if he's selected on draft day. One scout described him as a "sleeper" pick, as in sleeping giant.

"You don't see many kids who are 7-3 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan," he said. "He's got good hands, too, and he can run the floor and he actually has a good shooting touch.

"On draft day, some team may say, 'He's got what we can't teach, so let's take a shot and see if we can make him a player.' A lot of people are intrigued with him, especially those seeing him for the first time."

Somogyi said he's prepared to take the long road to the NBA if no short cut appears on June 28.

"I understand a lot of people don't know too much about me and that it would be a gamble to pick me," he said. "It's probably a long shot that I'll get drafted, so I'm focusing more on other paths to the NBA, through the summer league and training camps and possibly playing in Europe for a year or two.

"But it's already been a dream come true."

And now it just becomes a matter of awakening a sleeper giant.

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