---- — By William Bowman
The Daily Item
ATLANTA -- At the end of his 14-job-interview tour for NBA teams around the country, Mike Muscala took a second visit to Atlanta to work out for the Hawks and general manager Danny Ferry last Wednesday.
The Hawks had shown as much interest as any team in Muscala during the process leading up to last week's NBA Draft. Ferry, a former star at Duke had visited Bucknell during the regular season to watch the former Bison standout play in person. So when the Hawks asked to see him one more time -- on the day before the draft, no less -- it was one more plane ride for Muscala.
The extra trip paid off when the Hawks made Muscala, Bucknell's all-time leading scorer, the 44th pick Thursday. While he would have liked to have been a first-round pick, Muscala still fulfilled a life-long dream when he heard his name called.
"It was a long night, but in the long run a team that showed a lot of interest in me from the start drafted me," Muscala said Saturday night after he was introduced with the Hawks' two other draft picks at press conference. "Atlanta liked me, so it was cool to get the call after waiting."
"Mike's a complete player," Ferry said after the draft. "We're excited he was there for us to pick and look forward to working with him."
After working out with the Hawks on Wednesday, Muscala flew back home to Minnesota where he gathered with friends and family Thursday night to watch the draft on television. Among those on hand were Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen and associate head coach Dane Fischer, along with Muscala's former teammate Bryson Johnson.
The wait took a little longer than expected, but at 11:30 Muscala's phone rang and his agent informed him he was going No. 44 to Dallas, but that the Hawks were later going to trade for the pick. It was not an unusual move on a wild draft night that saw 24 of the 60 players drafted eventually traded by the team that selected them.
"It was a crazy night, a crazy draft," Muscala said. "It was a little frustrating at times when I wasn't getting picked, but the goal is to get drafted. Once the draft is over, it's just about playing basketball and everybody is on an even playing field. It's wide open once you get picked."
The Hawks drafted Brazilian center Lucas Noguiera and German point guard Dennis Schroeder in the first round and Muscala in the second round. Chris Mannix, who covers the NBA for Sports Illustrated, gave the Hawks a draft grade of A-minus and wrote "I love Muscala in the second round; Muscala was one of the most productive players in college basketball last season."
Muscala's first crack at the pro game comes in the summer league in a few weeks. Muscala said he will work out in Atlanta for a week or so before heading to Las Vegas for the summer league. The Hawks will be one of 22 teams that will play 61 games in 10 days in the summer league beginning on July 12. From there, Muscala said he will head home before returning for training camp in the fall.
"It was a long process, but I'm glad it has worked out," Muscala said. "I'm excited for the opportunity and am ready to take this next step."
Atlanta will have a new head coach this year in Mike Budenholzer, who left the Spurs after a long tenure there. He takes over a Hawks team that went 44-38 this year, finishing behind Miami in the Southeast Division. Atlanta lost to Indiana in six games in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.