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Jackson joins LeBron's show.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

It couldn't have gone much better for Luke Jackson than it did Thursday night.

His wait after the NBA draft began didn't last an hour before NBA commissioner David Stern announced that Oregon's No. 2 all-time leading scorer was the 10th selection in the draft, by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The response from Creswell, where Jackson was watching with family members, was pure ecstasy.

`We were on the edge of our seats and as soon as he called my name, everyone leaped in the air,' Jackson said. `We were all hugging. It was great.'

That was a big reason Jackson chose to watch the draft at his parents' home, rather than be in New York. Plus, instead of wearing one of those suits tailor-made for the potential top picks, Jackson could come to his news conference in a tank top and wearing his new team cap - provided by his sister and girlfriend - with the bill to the back.

`I just felt like it was a time I should spend with family and friends,' Jackson said. `Why not spend it with people I care about and got me there?'

As nice as it was to have the anxiety over and be in the company of his choosing, Jackson was equally delighted with the team that holds his rights as a professional player.

`Going to Cleveland, where I'm going to fit in, that feels real good,' Jackson told a news conference held later Thursday evening in the Casanova Center. `I feel like there's something special there and there's a need for a guy like me ... I'm pretty happy about that.'

Well, welcome to Cleveland, responded the Cavs.

``It wasn't just his ability to shoot the ball,'' Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson said. ``We think he's a good basketball player.''

Later Thursday, South Eugene High and Gonzaga University standout Blake Stepp was selected with the 58th pick of the draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Stepp, the West Coast Conference player of the year, was the only player picked by the defending Midwest Division champions, who forfeited their first-round pick because of an under-the-table contract offer to forward Joe Smith.

"The thing I like about Blake is he's played four years of college in a very good program, in a lot of big games," said Kevin McHale, the Wolves' vice president of basketball operations, in a statement on the team's Web site. "I saw him in person against Arizona two years ago in an unbelievable game. They put on a heck of a show, and I've liked the kid since then. He's closer to playing than a lot of other guys that are coming out right now."

Jackson was told by the Cavs they'll call again this morning to plan a visit to Cleveland in the coming days. The team also wanted to let him know his favorite No. 33 jersey was available, if he wanted to stay with that number.

`That's probably what I'll wear,' Jackson said.

Jackson is the 10th Oregon player to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, and the third in as many years following Fred Jones in 2002 and Luke Ridnour last year, both as the 14th selection in their respective drafts.

`I think it speaks volumes about our program,' UO coach Ernie Kent said. `I don't know how many teams in the country can say the same thing, and when people want to know why (recruits) are choosing this program, that's a big reason.'

Jackson seconded that idea: `Freddie and Luke paved the way for me, and I think there are guys in the program or coming into the program that I can do the same for ... it's starting to look like pro guards go to the University of Oregon.'

In the past two decades, only three other Pac-10 schools have had players selected in the first round in three consecutive years: Arizona State with Alton Lister in 1981, Lafayette Lever in '82 and Byron Scott in '83; Arizona with Chris Mills in '93, Khalid Reeves in '94 and Damon Stoudamire in '95; and Stanford with Mark Madsen in 2000, Jason Collins in '01 and Curtis Borchardt and Casey Jacobson in '02. UCLA once had a player selected in the first round of eight consecutive NBA drafts, from 1973 through 1980.

In becoming the highest-picked player from Oregon since Greg Ballard went fourth overall in the 1977 draft, Jackson positioned himself to sign a contract that could be worth about $5 million over the next three years, with all the money guaranteed and the length set by the NBA. The salary scale for the 10th pick this year is set at $1.52 million, with a team allowed to pay as little as 80 percent of that amount or as much as 120 percent of the figure. The scale for the No. 10 selection increases to $1.63 million in the 2005-06 season and $1.74 million in the final year.

`That's just a bonus,' Jackson said of his financial gain. `It doesn't seem like you should get paid that much to do something that you love. I have the best job in the world right now.'

In Cleveland, Jackson joins a team that went from one of the NBA's worst to finishing one game out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth last season, following the drafting of LeBron James as the first overall pick last June. The NBA rookie of the year led the Cavs with a 20.9 scoring average, but like most of his teammates struggled as an outside shooter.

As a team, Cleveland shot 31.4 percent on three-point attempts, the worst mark in the league. The Cavs then lost their top outside shooter earlier this week when Jason Kapono, a former Jackson foe at UCLA, was taken by Charlotte in the expansion draft. To compensate for that, the Cavs then acquired Aleksandar Pavlovic from Charlotte.

Jackson, who made 44 percent of his three-pointers as a senior with the Ducks, then was drafted to add more outside shooting.

`We really needed a shooter,' Cavs coach Paul Silas said, predicting that Jackson will have a significant role as a rookie. ``He's going to play some minutes for me.''

Jackson said the Cavs showed a strong interest in testing his shooting during his workout for the team.

`I had a really good workout (in Cleveland). Not stellar but decent and I'm glad they saw what they needed to see,' he said.

The Cavs are a relatively young team. James is 20 years old, and second-leading scorer Carlos Boozer turns 23 in November. The team improved last season after acquiring Jeff McInnis from Portland to play point guard, and it's also expected that 21-year-old Dajuan Wagner, Cleveland's top choice in the 2002 draft, will continue to improve his game.

In the revamped NBA, Cleveland will play in a very difficult Central Division next season, along with NBA champion Detroit, an Indiana team that had the league's best overall record in the past season, Chicago and Milwaukee. Because that division is in the NBA's Eastern Conference, the Cavs will play only once in Portland next season, with the NBA schedule to be announced later this summer.

Had the Cavs passed on Jackson, he had a good chance at ending up with a team closer to his home with Golden State, Seattle and Portland holding the next three selections.

`It would have been nice to stay on the West Coast, and who knows, maybe down the road that will be a possibility, to come back home,' Jackson said. `I'm just really excited to be playing on a team that has the potential to be a contender in the next couple of years.'

Plus, this night was going about as well as it could, and the party at the Jacksons had hardly begun.

`I'm the luckiest guy,' Jackson said. `I have no complaints right now. I've got my (college) degree, I just got picked 10th in the draft ... life is good.'

FIRST-ROUND DUCKS

1955: Jim Luscutoff, Celtics (4)

1966: Jim Barnett, Celtics (8)

1971: Stan Love, Bullets (9)

1976: Ron Lee, Suns (10)

1977: Greg Ballard, Bullets (4)

1985: Blair Rasmussen, Nuggets (15)

1991: Terrell Brandon, Cavaliers (11)

2002: Fred Jones, Pacers (14)

2003: Luke Ridnour, Sonics (14)

2004: Luke Jackson, Cavaliers (10)

CAPTION(S):

Luke Jackson dons a Cleveland Cavaliers baseball cap during a media session Thursday at the Casanova Center, after the Cavaliers took the former UO and Creswell standout with the 10th selection. He is the third Duck in as many years to be chosen in the first round.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Former UO standout goes as 10th pick to Cleveland; Minnesota selects Stepp
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 25, 2004
Words:1441
Previous Article:Probation status puts tight limits on UO's recruiters.
Next Article:Ems can't catch Devils.


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