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DeClercq and Sura clinging to hopes

As Florida struggled to gain an NCAA Tournament bid and succumbed to Iowa State in the opening round, Andrew DeClercq was staggering as well.

The former Countryside High star was, without knowing it, suffering from mononucleosis, with the effects of the illness lingering enough today to cause some uneasiness heading into Wednesday night's NBA draft.

DeClercq _ along with Florida State's Bob Sura _ is considered by draft experts to be a first-round selection in the two-round draft, although both players are having to defend themselves with the draft approaching.

Getting sick did not help DeClercq, since he was then unable to perform at any of the NBA's pre-draft camps.

"I was diagnosed the day after the Iowa State game, so I'm sure I had it at least a week or so before, probably more like three weeks because I had the same symptoms for a while," said DeClercq, 22, a 6-foot-10 forward/center. "I took some time off, started getting healthy again, and the doctors cleared me to play."

That's when DeClercq went to Europe with an all-star team brought together by broadcaster Billy Packer. The idea was to get ready for the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago, but by the time DeClercq came home, he was whipped.

"I kind of wore myself out a little bit and the mono came back," he said.

DeClercq left the Chicago camp this month without playing and has not worked out for any team. Instead, he has interviewed with the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls.

"In the case of DeClercq, being absent from the camps may have hurt him," said Chuck Douglas, head scout and assistant general manager of the Washington Bullets. "We were under the impression that he was sick, which kept him away from Portsmouth (the first pre-draft camp). Sure, it was bad timing for him. And obviously, DeClercq did not have the type of senior year he wanted to."

But DeClercq's scoring average improved as a senior to a career-high 13.2 points per game, and he scored in double figures in 20 games and had 10 double-doubles. He also led the team in rebounding and was in double figures 12 times.

Douglas said that teams likely would take into consideration DeClercq's illness, and ESPN analyst Dick Vitale raved about his attitude, which Vitale believes will keep DeClercq in the first round.

"His strengths are basically defense, rebounding and tenacity," Vitale said. "People are looking for great attitudes today, and this kid only knows how to play one way, and that's to give everything he has. He's limited offensively and he really has to work on the offensive end of his game. But he gives you so much in the other areas. I think he's a middle-to-late first-round pick."

For much of Sura's career, attitude was a huge question mark. He took too many shots, made too many turnovers and looked sloppy at times while putting up impressive offensive numbers.

So when his offensive output dropped during his senior season, it was seen as a positive rather than a negative. Sura, a 6-5 guard from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was seen then as more of a complete team player. But what he must overcome now is a rap against his shooting. Sura never shot 50 percent from the field in any season for the Seminoles.

"Obviously the biggest question is my shooting," he said. "It's my weakness. I worked on my shooting every day. I'm really happy with my workouts. I'm considered one of the top 10 or 15 players, and I'd like to go in the first 15. I'd be disappointed if I didn't. I think I've helped myself."

Sura did not attend any of the pre-draft camps, instead electing to work out individually for teams, including Boston, Sacramento, Vancouver, Denver, Detroit, New Jersey and Milwaukee.

"A guy like Sura has the NBA body, but so much will depend on how he performs in his individual workouts," said Dan Cole, assistant of basketball operations and scout for the Milwaukee Bucks. "He certainly could be a late first-round or second-round pick. But again, that is up to the evaluations of the individual teams."

Said Douglas: "It's not critical for him to attend the pre-draft camps. He's already pretty set. Sura had a steady four-year career, and it ended on an upward swing. He has established himself as one of the better guards in that league (ACC) and, I think, established himself as a top-15 pick."

FSU's all-time leading scorer with 2,130 points, Sura was first-team all-ACC as a junior, when he led the league in scoring with 21.1 points per game. He scored 30 or more points five times.

His scoring dropped off this past season, but Sura improved his assists and shooting percentage.

"He had a better year as a junior, but I think you always learn more in terms of discipline," Vitale said. "When you look at the total picture, I think you're better served by staying in school, as he did.

"This draft is very thin at the guard spot in terms of big guards who score. He fits the mold of a scorer off the bench. When you evaluate the big guards, he's the premier one. He knows how to score. He's a streaky shooter who needs to develop more consistency. But he's a competitor, an excellent transition player who will have no trouble with the 24-second clock. He'll be an excellent scorer off the bench."

_ Times staff writers Brian Landman and Roger Mills contributed to this report.

NBA Draft order

FIRST ROUND

1. Golden State Warriors

2. Los Angeles Clippers

3. Philadelphia 76ers

4. Washington Bullets

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

6. Vancouver Grizzlies

7. Toronto Raptors

8. Detroit Pistons

9. New Jersey Nets

10. Miami Heat

11. Milwaukee Bucks

12. Dallas Mavericks

13. Sacramento Kings

14. Boston Celtics

15. Denver Nuggets

16. Atlanta Hawks

17. Cleveland Cavaliers

18. Portland Trail Blazers

19. Portland (from Houston)

20. Chicago Bulls

21. Phoenix Suns (from Lakers)

22. Charlotte Hornets

23. Indiana Pacers

24. Dallas Mavs (from Knicks)

25. Orlando Magic

26. Seattle SuperSonics

27. Phoenix Suns

28. Utah Jazz

29. San Antonio Spurs

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