Tornadoes are rare in Phoenix, but a Cyclone swept through last week's Nike Desert Classic, one of the NBA's predraft scouting camps. The storm was 6'11" Kelvin Cato, a former Iowa State center, who stole the show in front of dozens of NBA G.M.'s and scouts.
The five-day event brings together 42 college seniors to play intense, man-to-man hoops under the eyes of the NBA's talent evaluators. Most projected top picks stay home rather than risk lowering their stock, so the field is loaded with good players—Kansas's Jacque Vaughn and Tulsa's Shea Seals were among this year's crop—looking to move up to mid-first-round territory.
Cato seems to have done just that. He's a raw talent who never played high school basketball while growing up in Georgia because he never lived in one place long enough to meet state residency requirements. But in Phoenix he swatted shots, played defense like a madman and showed an astounding vertical leap. "He just about reaches the top of the backboard when he jumps," says Rockets exec Carroll Dawson.
Cato wasn't a complete unknown. He helped carry Iowa State to a 22-9 record in 1996-97 and is the school's career leader in blocked shots. "He's limited offensively, but he's athletic and he competes hard," says Nets G.M. John Nash. "And the fact he didn't play high school ball might mean he has a greater upside." Cleveland, Milwaukee and Phoenix are among the clubs that could be tempted by that potential.