Tough lesson learned

Patrick Beverley was the only Chicago-area product drafted Thursday. AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst

Patrick Beverley chose to play in Ukraine. He wasn't exiled there, although it might have seemed that way. One day, he's an up-and-coming star in the SEC for Arkansas, the next he's living and playing in Eastern Europe.

Beverley's departure included plenty of speculation. It seemed only logical that it was academic trouble, but he initially dismissed that theory. He left for Ukraine, and all went quiet.

Until now.

Beverley, a former star at Marshall High School on the West Side of Chicago, said he has returned from Europe a changed man. On the court, he's no longer a shoot-first guard. He has become more of an all-around point guard who better understands the game. He hopes that transformation will attract interest in the June 25 NBA draft.

Off the court, he no longer is denying what happened at Arkansas. He takes full responsibility for his actions.

"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," said Beverley, who was working out for the Golden State Warriors on Monday. "Someone did a paper for me. I turned in a paper that wasn't mine. I accepted full punishment for it. That's over. I served my punishment -- going overseas.

"You can't allow things to weigh you down in life, period. As a man, I understood that more after being over there in the Ukraine. You have to learn to be accountable for everything you do."

It's an interesting admission, considering the NCAA reportedly is investigating whether another former Chicago Public League star, Derrick Rose, cheated on his SAT.

Beverley said he wasn't acting out of desperation. Rather, it was out of youthfulness. He said he didn't need to improve his grades.

"No, no, no, not at all," Beverley said. "I was already eligible. It wasn't because of grades. A person volunteered to do my paper. I wasn't thinking. I didn't think I would get caught. I look back at those childish things. I learned from my mistakes. I guess that's what it took.

"It's amazing. It's crazy. People who have known me my whole life see how much I have changed. The way I carry myself and go about things is different. I really think to be a professional you have to a pro in every way in your everyday life."

Beverley said there was plenty he learned while playing in Ukraine with BC Dnipro. He was guided on and off the court by coach Bob Donewald, a former New Orleans/Charlotte Hornets assistant, and by older teammates, who included former Lakers guard Devin Green.

"Oh, man, I think it opened my eyes to the real world," Beverley said. "I was young. I enjoyed college a lot. I enjoyed parties. I was a college kid. When you're a pro, you open your eyes, and it finally clicked. I understand where I need to go, and I needed to grow up.

"I was learning a bunch. I had a guy on my team who was 38. That's the same age as my mom. I was forced to mature a lot. I think me being around that setting forced me to become a better man and better player on and off the court. I now understand the life of a pro. I have a year of a pro under my belt."

Before returning to the States, Beverley was considered unlikely to be drafted. He was too small -- 6-2 in shoes -- to be a shooting guard and didn't have the proper tools to be a point guard. In less than a month, Beverley believes he has changed people's minds.

"I had two great workouts with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls," Beverley said. "The Miami Heat one was off the charts. My Chicago Bulls' one was off the charts.

"I was definitely under the radar. People are now saying like, 'Man, he can really play. He's a pro.' I heard before I would probably go undrafted, maybe late second round. After the Miami workout, 'Maybe mid-second round.' After the Bulls' workout, 'He's definitely a first-rounder.'"

ESPN.com's Chad Ford has Beverley ranked as the 49th-best prospect in the draft and possibly moving up. Several mock drafts don't include Beverley in either round, but that doesn't dampen his enthusiasm.

Mike Procopio, who is the director of basketball operations for Attack Athletics on the Near West Side, has been working out Beverley since he returned from Ukraine. Procopio, who is a former Boston Celtics scout, believes Beverley has a legitimate shot in the NBA.

"I think people forget he played in the Ukraine and was playing a decent level of basketball," Procopio said. "Sometimes it's a beauty pageant. They want to see Dick Vitale screaming your name. The old-school scouts like to see you score 22 points in the SEC. He's coming from left field having to leave college and go to Europe. If I'm a GM or scout, I'm thinking he played with 30-year-old men at a decent level of basketball, and I respect that.

"He has a chance. If the draft doesn't go his way, if I'm a team, I would bring him on for my summer league team. I just think he's talented enough to take a chance on him. He's too talented not to at least have an opportunity to play in this league."

Like Rose, Beverley would consider it a dream come true to be selected by his hometown team.

"Most definitely," Beverley said. "I would love to play for the Chicago Bulls. I understand this is still a business. I know they have to do their things necessary on their part. I would definitely love to play for the Bulls. Basically, I would love playing pro basketball, period."