Reggie McKenzie shows fondness for hoops in first Raiders draft

  • By Associated Press
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When Al Davis was in charge, the Oakland Raiders seemed to come out of the NFL draft each year with a track team full of sprinters.

New general manager Reggie McKenzie looked to another sport in his first draft, taking two converted basketball players who are relatively new to football among his five picks on Saturday's final day of the draft.

The Raiders took Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford with their first of two fifth-round picks and Georgia State defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi in the sixth round.

"It helps when you talk about how athletic especially big men are," McKenzie said. "Do we go in and look for guys who played basketball? No. But when we research and get down into the scouting part of it, yes. That's part of the process."

Crawford, who grew up in England, moved to the United States to play basketball in high school and picked up football in his junior year. He then went to Penn State, where he started the past three seasons. He had 6.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions last season.

Bilukidi, whose father was an Angolan diplomat, has even less experience. He didn't start playing football until his last year of high school in Canada. He then went to junior college at Eastern Arizona and finished his college career at Georgia State where he had 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in two years.

"It's not like basketball," he said. "Basketball is physical but football is just another game and it's more physical. The whole contact about it, just hitting people, that's what I like to do."

McKenzie showed his affinity for basketball players even before the draft when he signed former Cal State Fullerton power forward Andre Hardy to a free-agent contract as a tight end even though he hadn't played football since high school.

"We're close to having a starting five," coach Dennis Allen said.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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