Young Sofoklis hopes to be among the first-round picks in the NBA draft

NEW YORK – On the day after his 18th birthday, Sofoklis Schortsanitis put his impressively large body on display Monday for the New York Knicks in a tryout that wouldn’t have been possible a year ago. Schortsanitis is the youngest beneficiary of a deal struck between the league and the players’ union in February, for the NBA to drop its opposition to players who turned 18 in the 45 days preceding the draft from being eligible. «The change in the rules was something that gave me an advantage, but it doesn’t mean that it’s right,» said Schortsanitis, who was dubbed «Baby Shaq» last season while playing for Iraklis in the Greek League. «I think they want kids to go to college.» The oldest among the expected top three picks in tomorrow night’s draft is expected to be Syracuse University freshman Carmelo Anthony, who turned 19 less than a month ago. Despite the buzz surrounding the three teens, the NBA’s public stance is that it would prefer a minimum age requirement of 20. Schortsanitis, a muscular 115 kilograms (255 pounds), measured 2.04 meters (6 foot, 8 1/4 inches) without sneakers as the Knicks brought him in for a second workout. When the half-Greek, half-Cameroonian teenager first emerged on the international basketball radar last fall, he was reputed to be 2.11 meters (6′ 11»). He hopes to be drafted in the first round because it guarantees him a three-year deal. Schortsanitis comes from a European basketball culture in which the most promising young players turn professional in their early teens. Schortsanitis, who became a pro at 14, agrees that an age restriction of 20 might be a good thing – although it’s not stopping him from pursuing an NBA career. Scouting reports have praised his strength, footwork and speed, though even he admits his jump shot is not NBA-caliber. «I have the opportunity, so I’m here,» said Schortsanitis, who juggled his pro career while also attending high school in Thessaloniki. «What’s happened is that over the past 20 years the European game has caught up, and it has caught up because of they have concentrated on fundamentals,» Knicks coach Don Chaney said. «Those guys come over here much more skilled in the basics.»

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