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Sunday, July 14
Four of 262 get to join Nuggets' rookie camp

Associated Press

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets issued a patriotic appeal to players around the country to attend an open tryout, and 262 showed up for a four-hour workout in 95-degree heat Sunday.

''This is America, the land of opportunity,'' general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. ''I wanted to provide everyone the equal opportunity to become a part of the Nuggets.''

The team picked four of the players for its Rookie/Free Agent Camp that starts Monday. One will be chosen for the Nuggets team in the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City July 19-27.

Vandeweghe said the Nuggets staged the open tryout so they wouldn't overlook unheralded talent.

''I think we all know that Michael Jordan was cut by his high school team, and we know what became of him,'' he said. ''This kind of tryout, which I remember the old ABA used to do, affords us a chance to find talent that the system might have missed.''

That appealed to Dante Hill, who took a 27-hour bus ride from Ottawa Hills, Mich., for the tryout. He played at Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich., and spent a year in the CBA.

''This is old hat for me, trying to earn a spot on a roster,'' Hill said. ''I had to go through the tryout process to make my high school and college teams.''

Hill didn't make the cut. Neither did Warren Smith, 34, who played NAIA basketball at St. Mary's in San Antonio more than a decade ago.

He gave himself an even chance until he got onto the makeshift court at the parking lot of the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets' home arena.

''When I woke up this morning, I thought I had a 50-50 shot,'' Smith said. ''I am more realistic after a few times down the asphalt. I will go (back) to work on Monday.''

The four chosen were Jimmy King, 28, a star at Michigan who played for the Nuggets in 1996-97; Nick Mohr, 22, a four-year player at Colorado who finished his eligibility this year; Jermaine Mason, 22, who played at Southern Colorado; and Ben Adams, 23, who played at Copiah Lincoln Community College in Mississippi and played professionally in Europe.

The Nuggets had planned to take only three players.

''The talent level was so good we chose four instead of three,'' Vandeweghe said. ''Our staff had trouble cutting the field to 10 and decided on four when we had an even tougher time getting to three.''