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Tapscott's Team Takes Shape

Tapscott's Team Takes ShapeTufts graduate Ed Tapscott got the NBA’s newest franchise off to a strong start with some key selections during Thursday’s draft. Charlotte, N.C.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.25.04] For the last year and a half, Ed Tapscott has been planning the return of basketball to the city of Charlotte. Following Thursday night's NBA draft, the Tufts graduate - who is president of the expansion team the Charlotte Bobcats - is one step closer to reaching his goal. He not only has a roster of the team's first players, but it now includes one of college basketball's biggest stars.

"Before University of Connecticut basketball star Emeka Okafor's name was even announced as the Charlotte Bobcat's first rookie draft pick Thursday night, more than 10,000 fans gave him a standing ovation at the Charlotte Coliseum," reported the Charlotte Business Journal.

Minutes later, the news was made official by NBA commissioner David Stern. Okafor - considered by many to be the best player in college basketball - was drafted as the newest member of the Bobcats. Confetti and fireworks filled the Charlotte arena as fans watched the Bobcat's newest star player pose for the media at draft headquarters in New York.

"He seems to be the prototype of the kind of player you want to build a new franchise around and the ovation just means that we got what I believe to be the people's choice," team owner Robert Johnson told the Associated Press.

For Tapscott, who has been hard at work since 2002 building the new Charlotte franchise from scratch, the draft selection marked an important milestone for the new team, which plays its first season this fall.

"Tapscott said the selections of Okafor, along with an expansion draft that reaped 19 players earlier in the week, will now enable the franchise to market players rather than just a logo and a name," reported the Journal.

Surprising many, Charlotte made a series of deals over the last week to give the team the No. 2 selection in the draft.

"We played every card we had," Tapscott - who played basketball at Tufts before graduating in 1975 - told the Charlotte Observer. "We needed a few trumps to do what we wanted."

The savvy maneuvers gave the Bobcats a stellar player to build their team around. The national college co-player of the year, Okafor averaged 17.6 points and 11.5 rebounds during three seasons at UConn (where he maintained a 3.8 grade point average).

"This was a momentous day in our franchise's young history," Tapscott told a local Charlotte news station.

In addition to boosting the roster, the draft successes helped jumpstart interest and enthusiasm around the Bobcats - an important outcome for Tapscott, who has been focused on building stronger ties with Charlotte following the controversial departure of the city's old NBA team, the Hornets.

According to the New York Times, Tapscott - as well as owner Bob Johnson and general manager/coach Bernie Bickerstaff - have made a great deal of progress with the community over a relatively short time. "Appetite for an NBA team has intensified," reported the newspaper.

With Okafor on board, the appetite for winning will likely grow as well.

"He is ready because of his experience at the collegiate level -- including winning the NCAA Championship. I think he is ready right now to step in and impact a basketball team," Bickerstaff told reporters.

While Tapscott cautioned fans that the Bobcats "must take their lumps before growing into contenders," he said the team's players and staff are ready for the challenge.

"This is the excitement we've been waiting for," Tapscott told the Jacksonville Daily News.

 

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