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Friday, June 25, 2004
The no-name from Nevada

By Myron Medcalf
Special to Page 3

Who is Kirk Snyder?

It's OK, for now, if you still don't know. The former University of Nevada star and No. 16 pick of the Utah Jazz at Thursday's NBA Draft didn't get pro scouts and GMs to take notice of his talent either, until some recent workouts sent his stock rising and made him a potential NBA Lottery pick.

I met Snyder at a pre-draft press conference Wednesday and decided to follow him around to see what draft night was like for a soon-to-be NBA rookie.

Kirk Snyder
Kirk Snyder isn't just happy to be here. He's got bigger plans.
By the day of the draft, some reports had listed the 2003-04 WAC Player of the Year as a potential Top 10 pick and, at the least, he was a sure shot to go no lower than No. 13 to the Portland Trailblazers.

The 2004 NBA Draft was turned out to be like a roller-coaster ride for Snyder. At the beginning of the night his agent, Roger Montgomery, assured me that he wasn't at all worried about where Snyder was going to end up. For Snyder, it was all about the game; he just wants to play basketball.

He didn't have a gang of reporters around him before the draft like Emeka Okafor and Dwight Howard. Instead, Snyder just sat down with his agent, mother and the rest of his family and waited.

Snyder wasn't picked in the top nine, but that wasn't much of a surprise to anyone.

However, the No. 10 pick shocked most of the crowd at Madison Square Garden. Cleveland selected Luke Jackson, a shooting guard from University of Oregon. Snyder, also an SG, knew he was better than Jackson -- some of the reporters and scouts in attendance would have agreed. But he didn't let it shake his confidence. In fact, it may have bolstered it. After a recent workout in Phoenix, Snyder said he would be the 2004-05 Rookie of the Year.

To be sure, he assures that he is not cocky; Snyder just believes in Snyder.

However, Golden State (No. 11) and Seattle (No. 12) were not believers. Both franchises passed up Snyder. His agent started to show his nervousness Montgomery stopped taking my calls, and with out access VIP section where the players were seated, I was left to imagine Snyder and his family's resolve weakening.

But confidence prevailed as Snyder remained strong, patient. The Portland Trailblazers had the No. 13 pick. They had to get him. Portland management loved him. ESPN's Jay Bilas had Snyder as the 10th best player in the draft. He wasn't supposed to fall past No. 13, remember. And here it was, Commissioner David Stern coming out to say what was supposed to be Snyder's name:

"And with the 13th pick in the NBA Draft, the Portland Trailblazers select ... Sebastian Telfair," Stern said.

Snyder's crew looked baffled. "What exactly is going on here?" was marked on their faces. Telfair wasn't even at the Garden.

Kirk Snyder
The Zags know all too well what Snyder can bring to the court.
He thought he had answered the question, "Who is Kirk Snyder?" after leading Nevada to upset wins over Michigan State and Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. He thought he had made the answer clear for fans, coaches and GMs after dropping 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Kansas in December. He thought 18.8 ppg as a junior and his good defense (averaged more than one steal per game) was enough of a response. But now the waiting game became the nervous game for Snyder's agent and family.

Snyder was again passed up at No. 14 and 15 by Utah and Boston, respectively.

And then, at No. 16, all the jitters and fears were replaced with cheers and some tears as David Stern said Snyder's name as the 16th selection of the Utah Jazz.

Everyone rejoiced; Mom cried. His agent finally relaxed. And most importantly, Snyder's hard work was looking like it paid off. He was an NBA rookie. No Nevada player had been selected this early.

And as he made his way from the podium and into the multiple press conferences and one-on-one interviews, a fan shook his hand. As Snyder walked away, the fan turned to one of his friends and asked, "Who was that?" Don't worry, Snyder promises that once the NBA season begins, you'll all know who Kirk Snyder is.