A SMALL STEP with an awfully big body. That's how you can describe last night's NBA draft for the 76ers as they weren't able to make a blockbuster trade (unlike the team with whom they share the Wells Fargo Center ) or a small one, instead standing pat with their pick at No. 16 and selecting 7-foot, 260-pound center Nikola Vucevic.

A 3-year player at Southern Cal, Vucevic averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds this past season for the Trojans, posting 22 double-doubles in his 34 games.

"We are incredibly thrilled to draft Nikola Vucevic," said coach Doug Collins. "I liked him from the moment I saw him at the Chicago predraft camp. He is a hard-working, skilled big man with a desire to succeed who gives us more size in the frontcourt, which is a need. He is a player that we are ecstatic to have on our roster and I look forward to coaching him."

In the second round, with the 50th pick in the draft, the Sixers plucked Temple's all-time leading rebounder Lavoy Allen.

Vucevic was among the many players the Sixers brought to their facilities for a predraft workout. At the time, Vucevic glowed about how much he liked Collins and laughed when asked about Jrue Holiday, whom he faced when both were freshmen (Holiday at UCLA).

He is a player who improved in each of his three seasons in the Pac-10, leading the conference in rebounding his last two seasons. He shot 50.5 percent from the floor and 75.5 percent from the foul line. He comes from basketball lineage, as his father Borislav played professionally for many years in Europe.

"The first thing he told me was that to become an NBA player I had to work as hard as anybody and to never take off, not to quit," Vucevic said in a conference call from Newark, N.J.

"He's got a great wingspan [7-4 1/2] and is a good shooter," said general manager Ed Stefanski. "He's a pick-and-pop kind of guy, a very high basketball IQ, which I think is extremely important to play for Doug Collins. He's a good passer, he has a pro type of game right now. He's only 20 years old, and an extremely hard worker. He's in love with Doug Collins and wanted to play for him."

And the Sixers wanted Vucevic. In a draft void of superstars and as unpredictable as a summer thunderstorm, the Sixers say they targeted the Montenegrin early on and hoped they would land him.

"With this draft, it was very difficult to project with the 16th pick a guy that would come in right away and play for the 76ers," Stefanski said. "As we all know, with draft picks with Doug, he will play you if you deserve it and if you don't deserve it, you won't play."

The pick was the beginning of the end to a long day for the Sixers' brass, which endlessly worked the phones with other teams concerning "all players." But the big topic of the day was whether they would move Andre Iguodala, which has been rumored for quite some time.

"We talked to so many teams about so many things, moving here and moving there," Stefanski said. "We were very serious about moving up, but we couldn't do it because the price was too expensive. It fell our way."

Predicting playing time for the rookie right now is nearly impossible, but Stefanski sees time for Vucevic on the horizon.

"Because of his basketball IQ and his shooting ability and his passing, he will fight for some time as a rotation player," Stefanski said. "I think he's a stone cold center. He's not going outside to cover fours [power forwards], he's got the legit size to be a center, and that's what he is. H''s a stretch type of center because he can shoot the ball [from outside] and around the basket he can shoot with his left or right hand. He's your typical European type of player because he's so fundamentally sound. He is a player we've seen all year, and he rose and he rose. He's a kid that we really, really like. He was in the mix all along with us."

He will be a work in progress, with much room to grow his game, especially considering his age. Still, Vucevic is confident in himself, in his ability to improve and thinks he is playing for the right coach in Collins.

"He's a great coach and also a great person and I'd really fit his system," Vucevic said of Collins. "I felt like it was a great fit for me. I watched a lot of them and I know they have a great young team for years to come.

"I think I have to work on everything but one of the main things I need to work on is my NBA three-point range. I think that is something that would really help at the next level for someone my size to be able to expand the floor and I think I just still need to work on my body and become stronger and quicker. I think that defensively I'm better than people give me credit for. I have good size and I have good length so I can use that. I think that I read the game well defensively. My coaches at USC were defensive minded and they taught me a lot about it."

The reason for Vucevic's hysterics when asked about Holiday centered around a picture - that's still on the Internet - of the two of them when they were playing against each other in college. In the photo, it appears as if Holiday is going up strong for a basket while Vucevic is ducking out of harm's way.

"He didn't score on that play," Vucevic insisted during his visit earlier this month. "He actually missed the shot. I swear."

Now the two are teammates.

"Everyone talks about Jrue, he's like the folk hero with these kids," Stefanski said. Their eyes light up and people want to play with Jrue and Vucevic said he would love to play with Jrue."

By sticking at No. 16 and making no other moves, the pick becomes another small piece fitting into a puzzle that is still coming together.

"We need to do more and we'll work real hard to get more pieces to this team," Stefanski said.

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