Rickert chosen by Timberwolves in 2nd round

Brett Angel

Even with all the question marks surrounding Rick Rickert in the weeks that led up to Thursday’s NBA draft, no one could question his optimism.

Since making his April decision to leave Minnesota after his sophomore season and pursue a pro career, Rickert believed he would be a first-round pick.

After coaches and NBA analysts criticized everything from his toughness to his decision-making, Rickert still held out hope.

Now, that optimistic attitude could be the difference between surviving in the pros and becoming an NBA bust.

Rickert watched from his hotel room in New York City on Thursday night as he fell farther in the draft than the Gophers in the Big Ten basketball standings in March.

Four picks before the end of the draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves saved Rickert further embarrassment by selecting him with their second-round pick, No. 55 overall.

Despite Rickert’s freefall down the draft charts, he still feels good about his situation.

“I’m happy with where I’m at,” Rickert said on KFAN radio Friday afternoon. “I’ve got the opportunity to play for a great program and stay at home. It’s very much the perfect situation.”

Rickert could be applauded for his positive attitude, but considering where he was hoping to be drafted, his present position is far from ideal.

Had he been a first-round pick, as earlier predicted, Rickert would have received a three-year guaranteed contract, meaning he would get paid regardless of whether he made the team.

As a second-round selection, however, he is guaranteed neither a contract nor a roster spot.

“I know it isn’t where he wanted to go,” Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson said. “But Rick is a competitor and he’ll make the best of his situation.”

Rickert will get his first chance to state his case for a roster spot this week at the Timberwolves’ minicamp before playing in the team’s summer league in Orlando, Fla.

“In some ways, it’s better to be a second-round pick versus a late first-round,” Rickert’s agent Bill Duffy said.

If second-round picks make it to the NBA, they have the opportunity to sign better contracts for more money sooner than first-round picks, but that assumes they earn roster spots in the first place.

Just 12 of 29 second-round picks in the 2002 NBA draft began last season on an NBA roster.

The best-case scenario for Rickert right now is that he does well enough during summer league games to earn an invitation to training camp in the fall.

Hoping for the chance of making the team is undoubtedly a difficult adjustment for a player who some thought could have been an eventual lottery pick with another year or two of seasoning in college.

But Rickert is confident he can turn the negatives in his favor.

“I think the NBA could help me develop more quickly,” Rickert said, mentioning the opportunity to be tutored by Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale.

Monson, who has been a supporter of Rickert all along, thinks he will benefit from being with a team that knows his game.

“He’s got some things in his favor,” Monson said. “Rick is familiar with the Wolves and they’re familiar with him.”

So now, Rickert, who grew up in Duluth, Minn., could get the chance to suit up for his home state team and play in front of the same fans he did with the Gophers.

The question now is whether he will make it that far. But even with all his critics, don’t expect the ever-optimistic Rickert to doubt himself.

“I was shocked that I slipped that far, but happy with where I landed,” Rickert said. “I believe this will work out for the best.”

Holman headed to Hawks?

Jerry Holman, who had hopes of being drafted in the second round of last Thursday’s NBA draft, was not selected among the draft’s 58 picks.

Holman, however, has been invited to participate in the Atlanta Hawks summer camp from July 9 to July 20.

“Nothing really dramatic has happened since the draft,” Holman said Sunday afternoon. “I’m just going to let my agent, Chris Murray of Imani Sports, do all the talking and I’ll continue to do my work in the gym and in the weight room.”

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]