The Long Road To The Nba Free Agent Parrish Casebier Is Trying To Make The Sixers. He's The Longest Of Long Shots.

Posted: July 19, 1993

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — To make an NBA roster as a free agent who has never played professional basketball might be the most daunting challenge in all of sports.

Roster limitations alone dictate that basketball anoint fewer professionals than any other major team sport. There is also the political force of the

draft to overcome. The same people who make draft choices make cuts, and they

rarely like to prove themselves wrong. If you are not chosen on NBA draft night, chances are you never will be.

Parrish Casebier was not chosen. He did not go to a major basketball school. He did not play in a big conference. And he left college after his junior year. He is the freest sort of agent there is.

"I'm here to learn," the 6-4 shooting guard said. "I figured that I did everything I could do in the college situation I was in, and the best way to improve my game was to move up a level."

Casebier's next level could be anywhere, but it almost certainly will not be the NBA.

Casebier, the youngest player on the Sixers' roster, was a scoring star at the University of Evansville, a thick-shouldered shooting guard who could post up smaller defenders and move on bigger ones. He averaged 24 points his last two seasons, and he made the all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference team twice.

"I was getting a lot of injuries because I was double- and triple-teamed all the time," he said. "I just thought I'd learn more going to the pro level."

An NBA camp might be the quickest-moving classroom on the planet. Here, Casebier has struggled to defend faster guards and has found his shot infinitely harder to get off.

"Parrish is the kind of guy who has to learn to tone down a bit, to realize there's four other guys on the floor to share the ball," said Sixers coach Fred Carter, a former non-contract rookie from a small school who had to play his way into the league.

"Parrish is in a show-and-tell situation. He has to show people like me that we made a mistake by not drafting him. And as camp goes on, and we feature other players and he only gets to play here and there, he'll really have to show and tell."

Indeed, last night, as the Sixers lost, 119-103, to the Washington Bullets, Casebier and two other players did not get off the bench. Meanwhile, second- round pick Alphonso Ford played 38 minutes and took 25 shots.

A night of watching does not bode well for Casebier, but he is patient.

"I'm looking two or three years down the road," he said. "I know I have a lot to learn before I get to the NBA. This is just the beginning."

Casebier took that perspective into the draft. He did not even wait at home for a call. Coming out of college early was his decision entirely. Some people had advised him to stay in school, not the least of which were his parents back in Rockport, Ind. But Casebier had his mind set.

"Whatever I decide to do, they support me," he said. "But after that night, when I wasn't drafted, my mother called and said, 'What are you going to do now?' "

In all likelihood, Casebier will have to answer that question for himself soon. He said he would be foolish to play in the Continental Basketball Association if there were money to be made overseas.

Like many of these summer campers, however, he might have to start mapping a creative route to his NBA dream.

"I know I'm going to get there," he said. "A year or two down the road, there's going to be people who wished they drafted me, because I'm going to be in this league. I believe that."

NOTES. Kenny Payne, released in January after more than three seasons of futility, has returned to the Sixers' fold. He arrived for last night's game

from the Miami Heat camp and contributed eight points. He spent one possession tying his shoe, then the shot clock ran out. . . . Free agent George McCloud had his best outing yet, scoring 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

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