WESTWEGO, La. – Hornets general manager Dell Demps roved around the Alario Center on Monday, watching nine NBA prospects work out in preparation for the June 28 draft.
In the stands, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who also is expected to advise incoming new owner Tom Benson on Hornets matters, sat and watched while talking with shooting guard Eric Gordon.
The focus for those nine players, however, was on none of those folks on the periphery.
Instead, they’re attention was firmly on Monty Williams, New Orleans youthful and well-respected coach.
“You can tell he watches every little thing,” former Duke guard Austin Rivers said. “I think coaches just let things go. They just put them through workouts and see who they like the best. I think Monty really coaches everybody. He watches every little thing and I think that’s what the great coaches do.”
The one sentiment that colored each players’ comments on the Hornets was that New Orleans is an up=and-coming place, somewhere with a bright future of playoff runs.
New Orleans ran two groups through workouts, a session of front court players and another group of backcourt players.
Besides Rivers (6-foot-4, 200), the Hornets worked out Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb (6-5, 180), Washington guard Terrence Ross (6-6, 195) and Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin (6-1, 185).
The frontcourt players were North Carolina center Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) and forward John Henson (6-11, 220), Illinois center Meyers Leonard (7-1, 245), Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie (6-11, 249) and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones (6-9, 252).
All appeared to appreciate the thought of playing in New Orleans with potential first-pick Anthony Davis.
Even more, they appeared to enjoy being tested by Williams during the draft workouts.
“He has a great reputation, first of all,” Zeller said. “He’s somebody that’s very straight-forward. He can get on you but he doesn’t curse and I really respect that from a coach. He’s going to say it very bluntly but that’s something that takes a lot less time and you get the point right off the bat.”
Added Ross, “I heard a few different things about them but I know with the No. 1 pick they’re going to be headed in the right direction really soon. ... This could be a dangerous team.”
Williams’ philosophy of putting the potential draft picks through intense workouts stems from his belief in making the players realize they’ll continually get better if they come to New Orleans.
So he challenges them and puts them through laborious drills and teaches them, a concept that the players said was different from other stops.
“I just don’t think you bring them in here and have them shoot from 10 spots and say, ‘OK, we’ll draft that guy and give him $7 million or $18 million,’ ” Williams said. “To me it’s irresponsible. I think any time you get guys in the gym, I want them to feel like when they’re around our staff and in New Orleans, they’re going to get better.
“And the best way to do that is coach them and not just get them in here and poke and prod and say, ‘Hey, go touch the box,’ and, ‘Hey, let’s see how fast you can run to the other side of the floor.’ ”
Williams hinted that the Hornets could draft two frontcourt players with picks No.1 and No. 10, saying “it’s a real possibility.”
Demps and his scouting staff aren’t finished, however, searching and will bring in more players the week before the draft while also going to watch the draft combine in the coming days.