OGDEN — While Damian Lillard was working out for NBA scouts and front-office executives at the NBA Draft Combine on Thursday in Chicago, Weber State University student government and Ogden City leaders were working out a plan to make draft day “Damian Lillard Day” in the city.
Weber State student body president Andrew Gardiner said he met with the Ogden City Planning Commission, including members of the city council, on Thursday and has met with Mayor Mike Caldwell.
“Mayor Caldwell said he would take it to the city council to make the 28th of June ‘Damian Lillard Day’ in Ogden,” Gardiner said.
He expects the council to ratify the proclamation at its June 19 meeting.
The idea is to host a June 28 draft party celebration in front of the Solomon Center at the Junction to honor Lillard, Gardiner said, starting with a pre-draft party at 4 p.m.
He’s in the planning stages, but he’s got big ideas for the party, including WSU’s spirit squad, the marching band, giveaway drawings, autographed memorabilia, “Damian Lillard NBA Draft 2012” T-shirts, closing a street to watch the live broadcast on a giant screen at 5 p.m. and having local restaurants and businesses offer “Damian discounts” after 6 p.m.
Gardiner said he is developing a “Damian Lillard NBA Draft celebration” Facebook page and that the city and school would send out further information through their websites and newsletters.
“One of my goals as student president is connecting Ogden and Weber State better,” he said.
Gardiner, 24, an accounting student, also wants to encourarage WSU students to support the school’s sports teams.
“Athletics means a lot to engage our students and build that pride in the school,” he said.
Gardiner even hopes to invite ESPN to send cameras to catch Lillard’s fans’ reaction as he is drafted. “Damian deserves all of this,” Gardiner said.
The guest of honor, however, will not be in attendance: Lillard will be back east waiting for NBA Commissioner David Stern to announce his name, potentially in the green room with other probable lottery picks where the draft is being broadcast from at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Lillard’s reaction to a Twitter message telling him Ogden City would name June 28 Damian Lillard Day: “Seriously? Wow,” he wrote.
Weber State athletics director Jerry Bovee said the school is happy to help celebrate one of the most celebrated athletes in its history.
“We’re not going to let this be the last guy for sure, but certainly he’s the first athlete in the school history that’s going to be drafted in the first round, the first to be potentially a lottery pick,” Bovee said. “He’s done a lot for our program, he’s been loyal and I hope he’s a trendsetter.
“For us, it’s about what he’s done off the court as well as on the court, how he represents the university,” Bovee said.
Lillard volunteered to work with the Boys and Girls Club on his own, Bovee said.
“He’s got a great heart. We owe it to him to come and celebrate him. A lot of people in the community kind of feel like he’s theirs,” he said.
At Day 1 of the pre-draft combine Thursday in Chicago, Lillard impressed NBA onlookers and national media. Weber State coach Randy Rahe was in attendance to support Lillard and was interviewed on camera by ESPN analyst Andy Katz, telling him how much better Lillard got since coming to Ogden.
“It’s been a steady improvement. When we got him, we knew he was going to be a good player. We weren’t sure about all the intangibles, but every year since he’s been at our place, it seems like he’s matured. He’s obsessed with getting better and every year he made that little jump that you need him to make.
“The kid is just obsessed with working on his weaknesses and that’s what he did all summer. I’ve been doing it 22 years and I’ve never seen a kid that’s worked this hard.
“He’s a pretty big deal at Weber State but he doesn’t picture himself as a big deal. He’s got great values, his family instilled in him: Work hard, do it with humility and good things will happen and that’s basically Damian.”
Lillard is being increasingly viewed as a probable lottery pick.
“I actually think most teams think Damian Lillard is the No. 1 point guard in this class,” ESPN analyst Chad Ford said. “He doesn’t really have any holes in his game. You want to talk about a guy who’s prepared — I watched Lillard work out in Oakland. It was the most rigorous workout I think I’ve ever seen in the 10 years of doing this. It was full court, it was non-stop, it was unbelievable.”
Ford said Lillard is an elite shooter and pointed to his high efficiency rating, second in the country behind consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky, despite the high percentage of shots he took as the second-leading scorer in the nation.
Range and quickness were listed as Lillard’s positives, with his need to improve his floor vision as a negative.
ESPN reported that Lillard told his agent Aaron Goodwin he wanted to compete in all the drills to prove he had nothing to hide against players from college basketball’s premier conferences.
Comcast Sports Net Northwest interviewed Lillard after the combine about the possibility he could go as high as the sixth pick to the Portland Trailblazers.
“If I had the opportunity to go to Portland, I think I could really help them,” Lillard said.
He expects to work out for the Trailblazers. “I think it would be a great situation.”
Today is the final day of the two-day event with approximately 60 NBA hopefuls participating.