Wizards' Seraphin hopes to build on last season's finish

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Expectations are high for 22-year-old center

It wasn't long ago that Kevin Seraphin was the equivalent of a stashed NBA draft pick. Except that instead of being overseas, he was actually on the Wizards' bench.

That's all changed heading into his third season. Expectations are higher than ever for the 22-year-old center from French Guyana, and so far he's met them in Wizards training camp at George Mason's Patriot Center. Even team owner Ted Leonsis referred to Seraphin as a "sleeper really good player."

"He's been consistent, which I love," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I haven't gone back any one day and thought, 'I didn't notice Kevin out there.' That's good."

NBA preseason
Wizards at Bobcats
When » Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where » Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
things to watch
1. Ball handling ?» John Wall is out, and Jannero Pargo missed some of Thursday and Friday with a rib injury, leaving A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack as the team's only healthy point guards. But shooting guards Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal are also likely to run the offense at times.
2. Growth at small forward ?» The Wizards addressed a long-standing need on the wing during the offseason by trading for Trevor Ariza, signing Martell Webster and bringing back Cartier Martin. Chris Singleton, last year's primary starter despite being a rookie, needs to improve shooting the ball and attacking the basket.
3. Top draft picks square off ?» The Bobcats could've had Beal with the second pick in last June's draft but opted for Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead. The last time the two played against each other -- in the SEC tournament semifinals -- Beal had 20 points and eight rebounds for Florida while Kidd-Gilchrist had 10 points and eight boards in a 74-71 Wildcats victory.

Wittman turned to Seraphin at center last spring after Washington dealt JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to Denver. Nene joined the Wizards from the Nuggets but also missed 14 games with back and foot injuries. That opened the door for Seraphin, who averaged 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in April, scoring 10 points or more in 15 straight starts to end the season.

"Last year I was like a surprise," Seraphin said. "Now I think everybody knows what I can do so now I just came in a different situation because I have to play now. Now I have to show people, have to prove I can keep going, that it wasn't just for the end of the season."

Seraphin credited Wittman for being hard on him and forcing him to play with confidence.

"That's good because in my life, I never had a coach was like, 'You the best,'?" said Seraphin, who had similar experiences with Caja Laboral in Spain during the lockout and with Cholet, his first professional team in France. "I think I'm somebody that's tough so I need someone tough with me."

Seraphin also represented France in the London Olympics, gaining from being in the presence of veterans like Tony Parker. Meanwhile, he said he spoke regularly during the offseason with Nene, who took him under his wing during his short time in Washington. The addition of Emeka Okafor gives another invaluable veteran resource as well as competition -- something Seraphin is no longer likely to shrink from.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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