Atlanta's Dan Dickau says Oregon's Luke Ridnour is ready for NBA

They are both white, Christian and from Washington border towns. Both are just over 6 feet tall with bushy hair, and each calls Pete Maravich his hero. Both are big-time ballhandlers with good jump shots and a work ethic that separates them from the rest.

No wonder Luke Ridnour trusts Dan Dickau like his brother and talks with him nearly every week as he prepares for all the interviews, tryouts and business decisions associated with the NBA draft. They befriended each other at the 2001 Nike camp.

Ridnour can look at Dickau and see how everything might go Ñ including, perhaps, a fall from the middle to the bottom of the first round.

Dickau, the former Prairie High School and Gonzaga University star now with the Atlanta Hawks, strongly encouraged Ridnour to skip his senior year at the University of Oregon when the nervous junior called last month.

Dickau says Ridnour deserves to leave school early after having led the Ducks to the Pacific-10 Conference title and the NCAA's Elite Eight in 2002 and earning Pac-10 player of the year honors in 2003.

'In my opinion, he's the best point guard in the draft,' Dickau says.

Ridnour, who hasn't signed with an agent, will attend the pre-draft camp June 3-6 in Chicago. He can withdraw up to one week before the June 26 draft and return to Oregon. If he stays in the draft, Ridnour had better be ready for the highs and lows of the NBA, Dickau warns.

Last June, Dickau sat in his parents' Brush Prairie, Wash., home, expecting to be chosen in the middle of the first round Ñ around 14th, 15th or 16th, about where Ridnour might go. As Dickau shot hoops in the back yard, his fiancŽ fretted and he slipped to 28th, where Sacramento selected him and then traded him to the Hawks. One spot lower and his signing bonus and contract dollars would have tumbled. Whew!

Dickau played in 50 games, averaging 10 minutes and 3.7 points, and shooting a respectable .361 from 3-point land. He made progress. He also spent six weeks on injured reserve because of a knee injury, and there was tumult everywhere he turned in Atlanta. The Hawks fired their coach, replacing Lon Kruger with Terry Stotts on an interim basis, then fired General Manager Pete Babcock with three weeks left in the season.

The Hawks' owner, AOL Time Warner, wants to sell the team. Until somebody buys, a permanent coach and general manager will not be hired. And Dickau won't know whether the new owner will want to re-sign veteran point guards, including Jason Terry for a high price, or give him the ball.

'This is a big summer for me,' says Dickau, 24, who plans to play on Atlanta's summer team. 'I'm the only guard under contract. That bodes well for me.'

As a rookie, Dickau just kept his mouth shut, remained 'low key,' worked hard in practice and stayed hungry Ñ the advice he would feed Ridnour if the Duck star goes pro.

'Look at it as if you're the new guy and a lot of people won't rush to accept you,' Dickau says.

And, Dickau says, a rookie must look past the fact that some of his teammates are sloughing off.

'That can be frustrating at times,' he says. 'That's the nature of life in general: Some people are more gifted, and they can get by on a little bit of work. God gave me some gifts and also a great work ethic, and I'd be selling myself short if I didn't combine the two.'

But there are great benefits to being an NBA player, Ridnour will learn. Dickau married his high school sweetheart, Heather Nevenner, and the two recently built a house in Clark County. Dickau drives a yellow Hummer and joined Royal Oaks Country Club.

Early mock drafts floating around the Internet have T.J. Ford as the top point guard available, with Ridnour and Kirk Hinrich of Kansas next, and Maurice Williams of Alabama also in the first round. Teams also might consider a foreign player or combo guard Reece Gaines of Louisville in the first round.

Ridnour, the Blaine, Wash., native who averaged 19.6 points and 6.7 assists last season, could return to Oregon. But 'as far as positioning and timing,' he says, of the draft, 'I think this is a good year for me. It sounds kind of selfish, but this only comes once in a lifetime.'

Last year, some said that with a little seasoning, Dickau could play like Steve Nash. The same applies to Ridnour, who might not have Dickau's 3-point range but runs better and is more of a true point guard. Neither player exactly resembles John Stockton, a true assist artist.

'Luke can shoot it and pass it, and he can handle it,' Dickau says of Ridnour. 'You can tell he loves the game, and he's competitive. You combine that with skill level and work ethic É the same people see in me. We want to win and max out our skills.'

What about Ridnour's purported lack of foot speed and physical strength, and the skeptics who say he can't defend quicker players?

Dickau says few NBA point guards can stop players one-on-one and 'with his desire to get better, it won't be as big of an issue as others make it out to be.'

One mock draft cited these defensive liabilities and said Ridnour might be facing 'a Dan Dickau-like drop' in the first round.

At least Ridnour would be in good company.

Contact Jason Vondersmith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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