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A highly-touted prep star who went on to star at St. John's University, Felipe Lopez joined the Vancouver Grizzlies after a Draft Day trade from San Antonio which sent guard Antonio Daniels to the Spurs.

Upon his arrival at St. John's, the 6-6 guard from the Dominican Republic, was greeted with out-of-this world expectations of resurrecting a Red Storm program that had been stuck in the bottom half of the Big East Conference for several years. Lopez met -- and exceeded -- all expectations. Upon his departure, he ranked third on St. John's all-time scoring list with 1,927 points (trailing only Chris Mullin and Malik Sealy), sixth in Big East history with 1,222 conference points and brought the school a long-awaited trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1998.

His transition to the NBA has been a relatively smooth one for 6-6 guard, as he needed only 15 games to crack Vancouver's starting lineup and has since averaged 11.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg. Lopez is teamed with Mike Bibby in the Grizzlies all-rookie backcourt, and with Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bryant Reeves patrolling the paint, Vancouver has several key ingredients in place as they look towards the future.

The first native of the Dominican Republic to play in the NBA, Lopez spent this past summer holding basketball clinics in his homeland and raising funds and collecting food, water and building supplies for victims of Hurricane Georges. He also made public appearances to raise awareness and money for the region.

Felipe took time to answer your questions in a live chat.


jose from fmr.com at 4:33pm ET
Is it hard to get platanos in Vancouver?



Felipe Lopez at 4:34pm ET
Actually, my people from New York brought me some when they were here. It's a little bit harder to find than in New York (laughs).


C Nunez from dsl.concentric.net at 4:34pm ET
How does it feel to be one of the first Hispanics to play in the NBA, and do you think that now that we have one more hispanic playing we're going to see more of it?



Felipe Lopez at 4:35pm ET
I feel proud of who I am and where I come from. What I love the most is the support I get from every Latino from around the country. It makes me feel good, to know people care. And it makes me want to do more and more for the Spanish-speaking community, so we can have more Latinos in the NBA.


CJ Guidry from proxy.aol.com at 4:35pm ET
How are you handling your transition from college to the NBA?



Felipe Lopez at 4:36pm ET
I think the NBA is a lot better, you play a more one-on-one game, and that's my type of game. I don't play with as much pressure on me here as I did in college. Here, you work hard, but you also know you've made it to the top. In college, it was crazy.


Stuart Klein from micron.net at 4:36pm ET
Is the NBA life what you expected it to be?



Felipe Lopez at 4:37pm ET
Actually, it is more than what I expected. The opportunities you get, how people look at you., it's different. Definitely, you've got to know how to handle yourself, because there are so many distractions you can have, outside of basketball.


Franz Stenschke at 4:37pm ET

How did you get the nick name, el major?



Felipe Lopez at 4:40pm ET
(laughs). Probably because I am the first Latino, the first Dominican in the NBA, drafted in the first round. There's a lot of nicknames I have. Also, the Machine, the Beast. My family used to call me Ginaja. That's the name for an old water container back home. (laughs).


Julian at 4:40pm ET
What fond memories do you have of playing during the 1995 pre-Olympic Games in Argentina?



Felipe Lopez at 4:42pm ET
I do remember Argentina whipping our butt! (laughs). But it was one of the best moments in my basketball career because I got to play against guys like Oscar Schmidt. I won the scoring title by one point over him. It was my first time competing outside the Dominican Republic with the Dominican team.


Francis at 4:44pm ET
Felipe, se que hablas español has escuchado de Eddie Casiano base del equipo nacional de Puerto Rico?



Felipe Lopez at 4:45pm ET
Si, yo conozco Eddie Casiano, un buen tirador del campo de afuera y uno de los mejores jugadores in la liga de Puerto Rico.


antvaldez from codetel.net.do at 4:46pm ET
Es cierto que enviaste una ayuda economica al GUG en Santiago. De ser así, cuál fue la cantidad?



Felipe Lopez at 4:50pm ET
Si, yo ayude ha contribue para mejorar del equipo gug con apportaciones de equipo del juego. La cantidad no es necessario, si no el pensamiento.


Omar Nova from bellatlantic.net at 4:50pm ET
Felipe, who was your favorite basketball player growing up?



Felipe Lopez at 4:52pm ET
Since I grew up in the Dominican Republic, I watched the national team, so I have been watching a guy named Benicio Munoz all my life. He is still my idol to this day. He was a shooting guard.


Juan Carlos B. at 4:52pm ET
What impact do you think playing with Mike Bibby will have on your career and how you develop in the future?



Felipe Lopez at 4:54pm ET
Without knocking anybody else down, he is the best point guard I ever played with, including my point guard from high school, Jerry McCullough. He really knows how to play the game, he is so smart. In the long run, we have learned how to feed off each other. That will make both of us better players.


Jorge at 4:54pm ET
What do you think of the influx of international players in the NBA?



Felipe Lopez at 4:56pm ET
I think that international players are growing every year. And that's because of what the foreign players bring to the NBA. It's a different style and it helps the league. It has introduced the game to more of the Spanish-speaking community, and it has opened a lot of doors for people, I hope.


Rocco from node.wdn.net at 4:56pm ET
Hey Felipe, are you still close to your ex-teammates at St. John's, like Zendon Hamilton?



Felipe Lopez at 4:57pm ET
Uh-huh. I am still in contact with a lot of them, especially some of the senior guys. I already know what it takes to get to the NBA, with the experience I have from last year. I have just tried to help them out, what it's like going to a different team, a different kind of workout and schedule, that kind of thing. I want to help give them an advantage. So, yeah, we are still in touch.


Guillermo at 4:58pm ET
Felipe, you waited until after your senior season to declare your eligibility for the draft. Obviously, it was worth the wait. What do you think about players leaving early?



Felipe Lopez at 4:59pm ET
I believe different players have different situations. I felt like I needed to get something besides basketball in my life, to make me feel proud about whatever I am doing. It made me a different person, I am not just a basketball player, I am a basketball player with a degree. It's different for everyone, but I feel that time was spent making me a better person.


j-dog from proxy.aol.com at 4:59pm ET
What is your favorite music group?



Felipe Lopez at 5:01pm ET
My favorite music group right now would probably me Nas. I also like Method Man, the Wu Clan, J.Z. and Biggie. And I cannot leave Tupac behind. But I am still into roots, merengue and salsa, too. That's in my blood.


Marius Ursu from proxy.aol.com at 5:01pm ET
Felipe, how does your family handle you living in Vancouver, Canada?



Felipe Lopez at 5:02pm ET
There is no problem. They have been here about four or five times already. they come and stay for a whole week. Just like myself, they love the city. But I cannot wait to get back to New York and stay with my family. Even though the NBA season has been short, for me it has been a long season as a rookie. I am not used to traveling and having so many games.



at 5:02pm ET
Thanks for joining us, Felipe. Any closing comments for all your fans from around the world?



Felipe Lopez at 5:04pm ET
If anyone wants to reach me, you can go to the Grizzlies homepage. You can always ask questions there, I am more frequently there. I do apologize for not answering some of the other questions, but there were so many, and not enough time. I want to thank everyone for taking their time, and supporting me. It's been fun. Bye.




"I feel proud of who I am and where I come from. What I love the most is the support I get from every Latino from around the country. It makes me feel good, to know people care. And it makes me want to do more and more for the Spanish-speaking community, so we can have more Latinos in the NBA."



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