With the Staples Center just down Figueroa Street from the Galen Center, playing in the NBA does not seem out of reach for most USC basketball players.Talented · Forward Nikola Vucevic has impressed scouts at pre-draft workouts and could be taken in the NBA draft lottery on Thursday. – Summer Trojan file photo The dream will be even closer Thursday for several former Trojans who hope to hear their name called during the NBA draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.Nikola Vucevic is expected to be the first Trojan to go in this year’s draft.After averaging a team-high 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game last season and being named First-Team All-Pac-10, Vucevic decided to forgo his senior season to enter the draft.And his stock has been rising in recent mock drafts.Although most universities exaggerate the size of their student-athletes, USC modestly listed Vucevic at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds. At the annual NBA draft combine in Chicago, Vucevic surprised scouts by measuring just under 7 feet when wearing shoes, making him the tallest player at the combine. Vucevic also weighed in at a muscular 260 pounds and recorded the highest standing reach and the second-longest wingspan.Vucevic also impressed the scouts with how much his offensive game improved from when he averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman.“Nikola’s great advantage is that he is going to be able to guard [NBA power forwards and centers], which very few people can do,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said during Vucevic’s press conference in April, where he declared his eligibility for the draft. “He is going to have to become an NBA 3-point shooter. The lines on an NBA court are considerably longer, and it is a huge adjustment.”Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick and DraftExpress.com predict Vucevic will be picked 16th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.Alex Stepheson transfered from North Carolina to USC for the 2008-2009 season. – Summer Trojan file photoPlaying alongside Vucevic in the frontcourt for two seasons, Alex Stepheson, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward who transferred to USC from North Carolina, worked out with the Charlotte Bobcats.As a junior, Stepheson led the Pac-10 with an average of 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. As a senior, he averaged 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.Senior Marcus Simmons also has professional aspirations. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard developed a reputation as a lock-down defender, often guarding the opposing team’s best player. As a senior, he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.Simmons had workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors.No Trojans were selected in the 2010 NBA draft. DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson were first round picks in the 2009 NBA draft.
The establishment of the five-member Public Procurement Commission (PPC), which is currently marred by delays before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), will see the phasing out of Cabinet’s role in giving its ‘no-objection’ to the procurement process.Junior Finance Minister, Jaipaul SharmaThis is according to Junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma, who noted that before this could come into effect the Public Procurement Commission would have to be in place.However, he pointed out that in the absence of such a Commission, then in accordance with the laws, Government would now have to increase the ceiling on contracts’ value that Cabinet is required to give its no-objection on.As it is presently, the Procurement Act provides for Cabinet to review contacts exceeding the value of $15 million. However, the Junior Finance Minister hinted that this amount could increase to $40 million to $50 million.According to the law, Cabinet and the Public Procurement Commission, upon its establishment, shall review annually, the Cabinet’s threshold for review of procurement, with the objective of increasing that threshold over time so as to promote the goal of progressively phasing out Cabinet’s involvement and decentralising the procurement process.“In the interim, if the Public Procurement Commission is not established, Cabinet should have been increasing (the ceiling) every year… The law stipulates that Cabinet’s role should be phased out and by Government increasing the limit, is an indication that we are going to phase out,” he stated.Sharma noted that when contracts were before Cabinet for its ‘no-objection’, Ministers were very vocal and objective about their positions and this often resulted in the process being stymied.“If a Minister objects to (a contract), the project will have to go back to the tender board and be re-evaluated and then returned back (to Cabinet) and that in itself is holding it up. So the Public Procurement Commission is needed,” he stated.Minister Sharma was at the time speaking with reporters after the opening ceremony of a one-day sensitisation workshop on public procurement hosted by CARIFORUM and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) on Tuesday.During his remarks to the gathering, the Junior Finance Minister outlined that the delayed establishment of the Public Procurement Commission was not preventing Government from taking appropriate steps to ensure that there was a transparent and accountable procurement process.He noted that among the measures put in place by Government, in the interim, was increasing the limit on contracts processed at various levels, starting from the ministerial boards to the regional tender boards and then the National Tender Board.“Increasing limits assist the various boards to process larger amounts in terms of contracts so that they don’t have to send it to the National Board for considerations. So, at their level, they can facilitate that process,” he stated.Additionally, Sharma noted that Cabinet also looked at the proposal of increasing the number of evaluators available to Government. Currently, evaluators are made up of public servants such as Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Department.The Minister explained that “by increasing the number of evaluators, you make it possible for persons to meet on a regular basis so that they can evaluate and report to the various boards on that evaluation and the award will be made. So it’s an effort to speed up the process so contracts will be awarded …more speedily…”The Junior Finance Minister went on to say another step taken by Government to ensure transparency and accountability was the implementation of the ‘Bid Protest Committee’, which allows contractors who were not satisfied with the evaluation to make an objection to the process.He pointed out that already one company has made an objection to the Committee. That company is Cevon’s Waste Management Inc which filed objections to the award of the $221 million contract to Puran Brothers Inc for the management of the Haags-Bosch Landfill site at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
From the print editionThere is group of native crops we grow in our tropical gardens all the time, which are easy to grow, productive, delicious and very nutritious. One of these “superstars” of the garden is the sweet potato, or camote, as it’s known in Spanish. Long before Columbus landed in the Americas, indigenous tribes of Central and South America were growing sweet potatoes in a variety of colors and shapes.