By Dylan Butler
At every level, every rung of the ladder, little has been expected of Royal Ivey. He was cut from the Cardozo varsity team as a freshman, wasn’t expected to be a major contributor with the Judges, wasn’t expected to play big-time college ball and certainly wasn’t expected to get selected in the NBA Draft last Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
But once again, the St. Albans native played the part of spoiler. Despite not being among the 125 names in the NBA’s book of prospects for the 2004 draft, it was Ivey who was picked in the second round, 37th overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
“I feel this is a good situation for me,” Ivey said. “They brought us in here because they believed in us. I’m ready to work and play hard and do the little things to help this team win.”
Ivey became the first Cardozo player picked in the draft since Rafer Alston, who was selected in the second round of the 1998 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, 39th overall. He’s the highest-picked Judge since first-rounder Duane Causwell was taken 18th overall in the 1990 draft by the Sacramento Kings.
“Royal now has more of a pleasant chip on his shoulder because in his mind he hasn’t accomplished anything yet,” said Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio. “What he can accomplish is a long NBA career.”
The 6-foot-3 combo guard is known as a defensive specialist and was impressive in pre-draft workouts against first-rounders Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson.
After spending much of his high school career in the shadow of Brian Woodard, Ivey was named MVP of the PSAL championship game, shutting down John F. Kennedy star Willie Shaw in the finale at the Garden.
In an effort to increase his stock, Ivey went to Blair Academy in New Jersey for a year of seasoning and the plan worked perfectly. After drawing attention from schools such as Marist and Northwestern, Ivey signed with the University of Texas.
He made his first start back at the Garden as a freshman when Texas took on Duke in the preseason NIT and played point guard for the first time in his life.
He remained in the starting lineup for the next three years, helping lead the Longhorns to the NCAA Final Four as a junior, finishing with 1,036 points, 406 rebounds and 300 assists in his stellar collegiate career.
“Royal has a different type of game,” Naclerio said. “He does a whole lot of everything. You can’t judge him on one thing. … Royal doesn’t really know how good he is.”
The Atlanta Hawks apparently realized, though, as did the Chicago Bulls. Both teams expressed an interest in the soft-spoken hard worker, but it was the Hawks who had the higher pick and selected him 37th overall. The Bulls took Duke guard Chris Duhon with the next pick.
“Royal Ivey is a big guard who can defend. He’s equated in a lot of ways to an Eric Snow-type of point guard,” said Atlanta general manager Billy Knight. “He has toughness and some size.”
Ivey likes the comparison to the hard-nosed Philadelphia point guard.
“Eric is a great player. I take pride in my defense. I get after people and play hard,” Ivey said. “He’s a team player who sets his team up, gets them into the offense and he can hit the open shot. That’s what I’d like to be as a player.”
The next step for Ivey and his agent, Keith Glass, is to get the Hawks to agree to a contract. As a second-round pick, Ivey does not have a guaranteed contract and could potentially be cut at any time.
But Ivey appears to be in a good position to make the squad and earn some time next season. The Hawks have completely revamped their roster, have only five players under contract and only one — Jason Terry — is a full-time guard.
The first day the Hawks could sign Ivey is July 14, which is two days before he plays in the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league in Salt Lake City.
“I’m ready to work and make a contribution, along with these other guys,” Ivey said, referring to the Hawks’ other draft picks, first-rounders Josh Childress and Josh Smith as well as Donta Smith, who was picked in the second round. “And to do good things for this franchise.”
Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.