By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kristaps Porzingis has the height and shooting touch that makes NBA scouts drool, and the slender Latvian is determined to show he has the passion and toughness to thrive in the world's top league.
The 19-year-old Latvian, who has been playing professionally in Spain, is expected to be one of the top picks in Thursday's NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Porzingis has been brought along gradually by Cajasol Seville in Spain's ACB, averaging 8.1 points and 3.5 rebounds over two and a half seasons with them.
The 7-foot-1 (2.16 m) forward said he hopes to shatter an NBA stereotype.
"I'm conscious that there's a stereotype about white, European big men who are skilled," the slender Porzingis told reporters during a roundtable session on Wednesday about a perception that they play too soft for the NBA.
"But the thing about me is the love I have for the game and the passion. I can be in the gym three hours straight shooting by myself.
"I think that will help me in the long run as my career goes on. I'll keep my mentality the same, my work ethic the same."
Porzingis said his passion for the game came from a basketball family where his father, mother and two brothers all played, and that he was not worried about the physical demands of the NBA.
"I played with professionals for two and a half years," he said. "Definitely I'm skinny, but I can use my length as an advantage on defense.
"I need to put some weight on. I'll be working in the weight room a lot. That's definitely one of the things I have to work at, getting stronger. I think in the long run I won't have a problem with that."
Porzingis, who developed quickness and ball-handling skills playing guard as a youngster, said there was a difference between being strong and being tough.
"You can be skinny and you can be tough," said the Latvian, confident in his grit.
While there have been notable international draft flops such as Serbian Darko Milicic, taken with the second overall pick of the 2003 draft, and Nikoloz Tskitishvili of Georgia, claimed fifth in 2002, there have been great NBA successes as well.
Porzingis believes he will fall on the list that includes All-Stars Dirk Nowitzki of Germany and Spain's Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc.
(Editing by ......)