Byars tumbles into second round of draft

Friday, June 29, 2007 at 1:27am

Derrick Byars’ basketball dreams came true Thursday night, but not in the way he had expected.

The former Vanderbilt standout, projected by many to be a first-round pick in the annual NBA Draft, tumbled into the second round, where he was selected 42nd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers and promptly traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Many national media outlets, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and CBSSportsline.com, had pegged Byars as a first-round pick.

Instead, the 6-foot-7 swingman will enter Philadelphia’s training camp later this year with no guaranteed contract. His slide Thursday could cost him millions of dollars.

“I’m surprised,” said Robert Fayne, Byars’ New York-based agent. “The feedback I had received is that he would go higher.”

Fayne had no explanation for Byars’ plummet.

“I don’t have any theories,” Fayne said. “The draft is a very unpredictable and an inexact science. All you can do is make the best possible judgment.”

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he is “disappointed” Byars fell to the second round.

“However, I don’t think that will impact his chance to have a terrific NBA career,” Stallings said. “He’s a very talented player.”

Byars, who had dreamed of being drafted and was in attendance Thursday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, was not available for comment.

Byars was traded to Philadelphia in exchange for the rights to Finnish guard Petteri Koponen. Earlier this month, Byars conducted an individual workout for the 76ers.

“Philadelphia needed a player with his skill set who can defend on the wing, a player who can shoot from 3-point range and a player who is a leader,” Fayne said. “I think Derrick Byars is an NBA player who will enjoy a long and productive career.”

Nashville native and former Brentwood Academy star Brandan Wright, who played one season at North Carolina, was selected with the No. 8 overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Wright was then traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for veteran guard Jason Richardson and the rights to draftee Jermareo Davidson.

“I think I’ll fit in great,” Wright told ESPN. “They like the up-tempo style.”

Wright was the fourth freshman to be selected in the first eight picks. The 6-foot-10 forward was named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year honors after averaging 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

In addition, Wright was a three-time Tennessee Division II Mr. Basketball winner and led Brentwood Academy to four straight state Division II championships.

Earlier in June, most draft analysts projected Wright as a top-five pick. Even though Wright fell to No. 8, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told a national audience that Charlotte got excellent value in selecting Wright at No. 8.

“You may have to wait a little while on him, because he does have to get stronger and improve his shooting a little bit, but he’s an extraordinary athlete,” Bilas said. “Anywhere below No. 6, this guy is a steal. I like the pick a lot, especially at No. 8.”

Portland, Tenn., native Corey Brewer, who helped lead Florida to two national championships, was drafted No. 7 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brewer, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 13.2 points for the Gators last season and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Final Four in April.

Brewer was one of three Florida players drafted in the first round. Forward Al Horford was nabbed in the No. 3 spot by the Atlanta Hawks, while center Joakim Noah was taken in the No. 9 slot by the Chicago Bulls.

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