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Early Entries Ponder Their Future


Four, three, two, one, Harrington from the wing ... Yes!!!

High school player of the year Al Harrington has dreamed about playing in the NBA, going one-on-one with Michael and Patrick, showing off his game.

He skipped college to turn pro and was going to live his fantasy as the first-round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers, the 25th pick overall. All the afternoons and evenings in the gym and on the playground were going to pay off.

But the NBA lockout has put his future on hold.

The 18-year-old Harrington and two other high schoolers who jumped straight to the NBA, Rashard Lewis and Korleone Young, can only wonder about their decision. After all, they might have been star college freshmen now, worried about their next opponent, not whether they'll play organized ball this season.

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Others who also might have chosen a bad year to enter the NBA include Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, who both would be starring again at North Carolina this season if they hadn't left school early.

Instead, they're all waiting, while staying in shape and trying to keep their hopes high. It's been tough, though.

Frequent telephone calls to their agents for lockout updates have been reduced to a couple a week. Following the negotiations now seems to be a waste of time.

Each day adds to the frustration as they practice in quiet gyms, pump iron, or seek relief playing golf or going to the movies. While money is no problem for some, others are skimping with no end in sight.

"I'm 18, and all I want to do is play right now," said Harrington, who gained national prominence averaging 21.9 points at St. Patrick's of Elizabeth, a small parochial school near Newark airport in New Jersey. "But I can wait until the time is right. Maybe this lockout is going to help me eventually."

Harrington also realizes the lockout could cost him a year of play.

"If that's what it takes, that's what it will take," Harrington said. "I would be a little upset, you know. We are waiting for a reason. It's not like there is no reason."

As for the 19-year-old Young, who played at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., he has spent his free time working out at Wichita State at home in Kansas -- but that's about it.

"There's nothing else for me to do but keep in shape," he said. "I wake up, I go run the stairs and I lift weights, everyday at 3:30 p.m. ... It's all up to my self discipline."

If there is a positive side to the lockout for Harrington, it's the friendship he has developed with Pacers' veteran forward Antonio Davis.

Harrington went to the Pacers' minicamp after the draft and stayed in Indiana along with a personal trainer to work out. One weekend when the trainer was away, Harrington asked Davis if he could stay at his home rather than a hotel.

"I haven't left since," Harrington said. "Tony is like a big brother to me. He told me I could stay as long as I want.

"I feel when I'm with his family, I'm with my family."

And just like family, Harrington helps out with the chores, taking out the garbage and doing what else has to be done, including picking up Davis' kids from school. Of course, that's after spending two or more hours playing at a nearby gym, then lifting for about an hour.

That part came courtesy of a minicamp talk with Pacers coach Larry Bird.

"He said that the biggest thing with his team is you don't play unless you are in shape," Harrington said. "Those were his words of wisdom to me."

Financially, he's being helped by his mother, although Harrington said he doesn't need much money since he's living with Davis.

"He's looking out for me just like my parents," Harrington said.

Jamison and Carter spend their days much like Harrington, although both seem to be more financially secure.

Jamison, the fourth pick in the draft, and Carter, No. 5 overall, signed lucrative shoe contracts recently. Carter got a 10-year deal with Puma and Jamison a five-year contract with adidas. Each said the companies have fronted them an undisclosed amount of money.

"It's frustrating but I don't have any regrets now," said Jamison, who will eventually play for Golden State. "If there was to be no season at all this year, then, of course, I would have a lot of regrets."

Carter followed the negotiations at the beginning, but he has since lost interest.

"I'm just here waiting now," said the future Toronto swingman. "I was ready to go draft night because of all the excitement. Now, it's just a waiting process and you're sitting here with anticipation."

The wait might be even harder on Lewis and Young, the other two high school players taken in the draft. Lewis was taken by Seattle with te 32nd pick overall, while Young was picked by Detroit with No. 40.

Lewis, of Houston, has been playing pickup games at the Westside Tennis Club, the Rockets' practice facility. He has recovered from the disappointment of being drafted so low and stands by his decision to skip college.

"That is far behind me now," he said. "I don't regret it at all. It was disappointing at the time, but I made the decision and I'll live with it. I know I can play in the league, it's just going to take awhile longer."

About 45 to 50 NBA players are working out at Westside and Lewis has been picking up lessons.

"It's been great for me to be able to come over here," Lewis said. "I've learned a lot from these guys. They've taken me aside and showed me a lot."

Back in Indiana, Harrington fears he will have to wait until next season to show off his skills.

"My mother is real concerned," he said. "She is an NBA fan. She feels different than the way I feel, but what can she do. She wants to see me play as soon as possible. She knows how much I want to play."

Playing in the NBA remains his dream.

"It's a delayed dream right now," he said. "Now I am dreaming for the lockout to end. That's the new dream."

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