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Kevin Schnepf, Published April 08 2009

Crunch time for NDSU's Woodside: Opening eyes of scouts at Portsmouth Invitational could open doors to the NBA

Ben Woodside’s childhood dream to play in the NBA takes another step toward reality this week in a high school gymnasium in Virginia.

Woodside, the all-time leading scorer in the history of North Dakota State men’s basketball, realizes playing in this week’s 56th Annual Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational will be the biggest step yet.

“This is a stepping stone, if the NBA is a shot for Ben Woodside,” Woodside said. “It’s obviously going to be tough to make it there, but you’ve got to go through all of this to prove yourself. This is just a great opportunity to show people what I’ve got.”

Woodside is one of 64 standout seniors who will play games today through Saturday in Churchland High School in the historic seaport city of Portsmouth. It will be Woodside’s first chance to display his talent for scouts from the 30 NBA teams and numerous professional teams overseas.

Because of a lack of exposure during his college career, Woodside will be one of the most scrutinized players this week, according to Jonathan Givony, president of draftexpress.com.

“I would say he would be in the mix to be drafted, but it will come down to how well he plays at Portsmouth,” Givony said, adding that a good showing will lead to tryouts with NBA teams up until the NBA draft on June 25.

Woodside’s 60-point game last December opened some eyes. But NBA scouts have always looked at his size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and defensive ability as liabilities.

Then came Woodside’s 37-point performance against Kansas – the highest single-game output in this year’s NCAA tournament.

“Woodside’s been lighting it up all season against inferior competition, but to see him do it to Kansas was pretty eye-opening,” wrote Chad Ford of ESPN.com. “I doubt he makes the NBA, but I guarantee that his 37 points against Kansas will get him a few workouts.”

According to Andrew Katz of Dime Magazine, Woodside also has to compete for a spot on an NBA roster with a laundry list of point guards that could include North Carolina’s Ty Lawson and Davidson’s Stephen Curry.

“Woodside could very well be one of the three quickest guards in the nation … he proved it in Round 1,” Katz wrote. “Woodside deserves a look at the big time, but will he get past the summer camps?”

This week’s Portsmouth Invitational has headliners like UConn’s A.J. Price, Pittsburgh’s Sam Young and Brigham Young’s Lee Cummard – three clear-cut candidates to be the first Portsmouth players drafted since Jason Maxiell in 2006.

That was the year Jose Juan Barea, an unknown point guard from Boston’s Northeastern University, made a name for himself in Portsmouth. Undrafted, Barea now earns $1.5 million a year playing for the Dallas Mavericks.

“I compare Woodside with Barea,” said Givony, in his sixth year with draftexpress.com. “He made the league through the back door. He got the right agent to find the right training camps.”

Now Woodside has an agent who has worked with undrafted NBA players before. Mark Bartelstein, of Priority Sports in Chicago, represents NBA players like Brad Miller, Bobby Simmons and Antoine Walker.

But he also represents players like Chris Quinn, an undrafted point guard from Notre Dame.

“Now he’s playing great minutes (in the NBA) for the Miami Heat,” said Woodside, who talked to Quinn on Monday night. “We’ll have to see who Mark talks to and see who contacts Mark. Hopefully, after Portsmouth, I will get an opportunity to get some workouts.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com