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Issue #56 April 2010
WESTBROOK BOULEVARD For second-year guard Russell Westbrook, L.A. is home. Gone from the West Coast only in body, Russ has now set up shop in a land far removed from the warmth and media monsters of Cali: Oklahoma.
THE TOTAL PACKAGE Years after he entered the argument as one of the best point guards in the world, Deron Williams entered this season still looking for his ﬁrst All-Star recognition. Having ﬁnally cleared that hurdle, the next step for the Utah Jazz’s marquee player is to bring the franchise its ﬁrst NBA championship.
FAST AND FURIOUS Even after winning a ring in his second year in the League, Rajon Rondo has been doubted. But that’s something he’s come to expect. Now as his franchise’s best player, it’s Rondo’s competitive nature that makes him the perfect guy to lead Boston into the next decade.
THE HURT LOCKER He’s been dominating the Midwest since before his voice cracked, and things won’t change now that he’s headed to Ohio State University. Meet Jared Sullinger, the Dime/2K Sports High School Player of the Year.
DIME/2K SPORTS ALL-AMERICAN TEAM Regardless of class, we give you the only High School All-American team that matters.
Jared Sullinger 6
Photo. Kirk Irwin
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Issue #56 April 2010
Contents 15 16 17 18
HOOPLA YouTube REVIEWS TANGLED WEB FILM
18 – Winning Time 19 – The Streets Stop Here
– Wesley Matthews
STREET SEEN Backside
– Stacy Paetz
WHAT'S MY NAME?
26 – Mike Gerrity 27 – Hassan Whiteside 28 – Reggie Williams 29 – Destiny Brown 30 – Chris Galbraith 31 – Latavious Williams
32 Jerry Colangelo 33 – Craig Ehlo
– IMG Basketball Academy
The Greatest High School Basketball Show Ever
– Chris Paul
– Baron Davis & The Li-Ning BD Doom
HIGH SCHOOL HOOP
– Getting To The Point
– DeMatha Catholic High School
STYLES UPON STYLES
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Issue #56 April 2010
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Editorâ€™s Letter Chris Paul. Deron Williams. Baron Davis. Russell Westbrook. And our cover guy - who may be better than all of them when it's a wrap Rajon Rondo. Five elite NBA point guards; each one the centerpiece of his own feature in this issue of Dime. Naturally, and unsurprisingly, as we were building this issue of the magazine, it started to be referred to as the "Point Guard Issue" in the office. That wasn't the plan when we started the process of creating Dime #56, it just kind o f we n t t h a t way. T h e reason, to me at least, is pretty obvious: the frightening evolution of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade aside, there is no set of athletes in the NBA more compelling than the current crop of young point guards - they are set to dominate the League for the foreseeable future.
Right at the forefront of the current point guard takeover is Rajon Rondo. Doubted and overlooked by many at every turn of his basketball career, from high school right up to when you are reading this, today Rondo can make a strong case that he is arguably the second or third-best point guard in the entire NBA. He is certainly in the Top-4 discussion with CP, Deron and Steve Nash. Basically sold to Boston on Draft night a few years ago by a Phoenix franchise looking to save some money by not being locked into a guaranteed first-round rookie contract, Rondo went from being seen as the "weak link" on a Celtics team dominated by the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, to the franchise's best player and main reason that Boston's championship window remains open even a crack this season. Rondo's ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor every single night makes him an invaluable commodity in the League - it's safe to say that he's a consistent jump shot away from being not only the best point guard in the NBA, but also one of the NBA's best overall players. And I'm proud to say that as you have come to expect from us, we have given Rajon Rondo the shine he deserves before anyone else. Rondo's cover for Dime is his first solo national magazine cover, putting him in the same Dime pantheon as Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy and Tyreke Evans. Like those guys before him, we expect that this won't be the last Dime cover featuring Rajon Rondo.
Think about it. Take 'Bron, KD and Wade out of the equation, and which set of players has made the greatest mark on the League over the past handful of years?
-- Patrick Cassidy
The point guards.
Director of Content, Dime Magazine Publishing Company Chris Paul and Deron Williams have been revelations since they came into the NBA a few years ago, and now they already look like grizzled vets compared to the latest crop of dominant PGs. This season alone, a bevy of rookie point guards like Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, and Ty Lawson have all shown that they are going to be prime (and maybe even elite) players in the NBA for many, many years to come. And that's before we even get to the players on the horizon, namely Kentucky phenom John Wall, who is surely going to be a Top-2 pick at worst in this summer's NBA Draft.
Also check out Dime #56's alternate cover featuring Ohio high school phenom Jared Sullinger, the inaugural Dime/2K Sports Player of the Year.
LETTERS When it comes to Kobe Bryant, the only thing basketball fans can agree on is that the Black Mamba causes disagreements. After adding another championship to his ledger in 2009 and putting together an MVP-caliber campaign during this 2010 season, the debate over Kobe’s place in history only grows more intense and complicated. Is Kobe one of the 20 best players the game has ever seen? Is he closer to the 10-15 range? Is he in the top ﬁve? Around the time Dime #55 hit newsstands with #24 on the cover, we asked our DimeMag.com readers:
WHERE DOES KOBE RANK AMONG BASKETBALL’S ALL-TIME GREATS? I have Kobe in the top 15-20. He can’t be better than legendary players like Bird, Magic, Oscar, Wilt, Kareem, etc. For one thing, the great players of the ’80s and before built the league. Kobe comes in riding off what they built. Secondly, because of the money and science, today’s players are able to play at their peak longer. The top 10 best players ever are guys everybody knows were purely dominant. In any order: Dr. J, Magic, Wilt, Kareem, Russell, Bird, MJ, West, Oscar, Shaq. Kobe is in that next tier of stars. For those who count his rings, hell, Robert Horry has more rings. Kobe is a superstar no doubt, but he’s not a transcendent player. Shaq was the man on those championship teams. After that, Kobe was crying to be traded. You don’t hear that from an all-time top 10 guy, they’re gonna win no matter what.
–Jayo Kobe Bean Bryant, a controversial enigma that will forever be the center of barbershop arguments and debates on where he stands in the NBA history books. Much like everything else in life, we take everything in the present for granted. After Kobe is done lacing his shoes up, we’ll run the vintage footage of him coming up big in the Finals when Shaq fouled out, his 81-point performance, and his multiple game-winners throughout his career. We’ll then come to truly appreciate his greatness. His game has evolved from being freakishly athletic to becoming one of the most fundamentally sound players in the League. Love him or hate him, you can’t keep Kobe out of the top 10 players of all-time. When it’s all said and done, Kobe will easily be in the top five to ever grace the hardwood.
He’s no lower than 8th now, and if he can play three more high-quality years, and probably three lower-quality years beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to keep him out of the top five. It’s the level of sustained excellence that makes great players all-timers. It’s easy to be good for 2-3 seasons before adverse circumstances (injuries/drugs/trades/apathy/bad luck) drag you down. It’s incredibly hard to be that good for that long. That’s why LeBron isn’t in this conversation … yet. He’s an amazing player, freakishly talented, but we don’t know how his story ends yet. Kobe’s story is 70 percent written. We can start to project where it will go.
–hicks There are maybe a dozen all-time greats in front of him. With the career that he’s having and the future milestones, wow. He’s just feeding that resume some good ol’ HGH. When you talk about greats, you talk about great teams and great times for certain people, certain eras, certain fragments of our culture we bottle up in yesteryear. Kobe hasn’t transcended that level yet. Kobe is an all-time great talent who will sit somewhere on Olympus, but whether it’s next to Jordan or across from Magic is yet to be determined.
I could make a valid argument he’s the best ever, but I know that he could win 10 more rings in a row while averaging 50 points a game and some of you still wouldn’t give him credit. Other than Jordan and Magic, no one is better, and even they aren’t clearly better. If Kobe gets 6 rings, he’s the G.O.A.T.
–Drewskeelove Kobe is gonna be the best to ever play … He will finish second or third in scoring all-time, with a chance he could finish first … He easily gets two more championships within the next six years as he can still play at a great level … I don’t care what anyone thinks, he’s gonna be the best … You can see it when you watch him play… Nobody works harder to be the best than him … If you didn’t notice, Kobe gets what he wants. And he wants to be the best.
–Michael I understand some of us are not too fond of Kobe’s personality, but we must be objective when we talk about his abilities as a basketball player. I’ve seen many a NBA player and if you include the total package, skills and intangibles, he finishes second to Jordan. Granted, the way he behaves serves as a detriment to his popularity as a person and will be the reason he will never be the figure Michael Jordan was, but nonetheless, the game is played on the hardwood and if we look solely there than there is no question he belongs in the Top 5, if not second place when his career is over.
Te Greatest High School Basketball Show Ever
INSIDE BARON DAVIS’ NEW KICKS
ATL’S HOTTEST BAR
HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE NBA
Photo. Dorothy Hong
While we were putting this issue together, Nate Robinson won what was widely considered one of the, um, least-exciting NBA dunk contests in history. Here’s to a better time next year… NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST 2005
From: nicksayan On the sneak, this is one of the ﬁve best dunk contests of the post-Jordan/’Nique era. J.R. Smith opens things up with his groundbreaking behind-the-back dunk, Birdman Andersen embarrasses himself by missing 17 lobs to himself (thankfully, this clip doesn’t show that carnage), then Josh Smith’s windmill where he jumps over Kenyon Martin almost from the free throw line while catching a lob is one of the smoothest, best-coordinated dunks you’ve ever seen – until Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash connect for the off-the-glass/offthe-head 360 a few dunks later. Josh Smith got a 50 for donning the Dominique jersey and executing a textbook windmill, then clinched the title with a 360 windmill going against the grain. This contest would have been more memorable had Josh acted like he was awake.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tlgg66REYQ Time: 4:02 1991 NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST
From: anbap A lot of people still think Shawn Kemp really won this contest. But to be fair, Kemp didn’t really need it; meanwhile, Dee Brown and his Reebok Pumps would be toiling in obscurity were it not for the ’91 crown. Judge for yourself: Kemp was dunking so hard the ball was bouncing back 10-15 feet in the air post-dunk, while Dee put together an impressive collection of crams beyond just the Peek-a-Boo dunk that made him famous. There’s also a Rex Chapman cameo, and the original Kenny Smith dunk that still allows him to be considered an expert on all things above the rim.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v9-b0vPRKU Time: 4:57 KOBE BRYANT HIGH SCHOOL DUNK CONTEST
From: graybead This is from Kobe’s senior year, at the Beach Ball Classic holiday tournament in South Carolina. Rocking the baldie and his #33 Lower Merion uni, Kobe shows a little of what won him the NBA dunk contest in ’97 – including a between-the-legs cram, a left-handed windmill, and a two-hand smash after jumping over some skinny guy. But it was deﬁnitely no cakewalk for Kobe. Remember Lester Earl? He was a straight BEAST in high school who went to Kansas but never lived up to his potential. Earl jumps over a ball rack for a riot-inciting dunk in the ﬁnals, but after Kobe jumps over 3-4 people for a one-hander, it’s ruled a tie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPw7MCAXHBk Time: 5:37 NBA SLAM DUNK CONTEST 2001 HIGHLIGHTS
From: manyaks1989 Vince Carter was so good in 2000, it took a couple of years for people to come back to their senses. Hence, the ’01 contest is often forgotten. Creativity was on display here: Baron Davis had David Wesley throw him a lob while sitting on the ﬂoor and videotaping the dunk, and Corey Maggette did a gymnastic ﬂip before catching a lob. We know Rashard Lewis doesn’t necessarily relish contact, but how scared was he when eventual winner Desmond Mason jumped over him? Rashard curled his 6-10 frame up into a ball, and still felt it necessary to cover his head with his shirt.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV5X30nCkYQ Time: 2:54 COLLEGE DUNK CONTEST 2004
From: gdubbz The E-40 version of “Rep Yo City” could make the WNBA dunk contest seem vicious, but it makes the ’04 NCAA contest look almost legendary. Two of the contestants – Myree “Reemix” Bowden (Paciﬁc) and Cardell “Ballaholic” Butler (Utah State) – have since been seen on the AND 1 tour, and yet neither of them won. Instead it was Texas Tech’s Andre Emmett, who had a cup of coffee in the NBA but made his last major impression here. Emmett uses lobs off the shot clock and the wall – yeah, the wall – then brings the house down with a ﬁnal dunk where he clears a classroom full of kids. Nice touch using the ABA multi-colored ball.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE5Fn7oevbA Time: 6:09
Put that brand-new iPad to use before it becomes obsolete next month…
Basketball / Food
The concept is simple: Take a classic Batman & Robin comic book frame – in this one, Batman appears to be telling his sidekick what the Five Fingers said to the Face – and insert your own dialogue. Good way to kill an entire lunch break.
If you’re going for that hip-hop nerd look and you’ve been consistently missing the mark, Street Etiquette will help you get it right. Founders Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs don’t just show you what to do, they explain why you should do it and what makes it cool. The ofﬁcial urbanite user’s guide to tweed, tight jeans, ties and neck scarves.
Hip-hop, fashion, sports, gadgets, politics, movies, video games … there isn’t much ground left uncovered by Baller Status. A good destination for all relevant and irrelevant breaking hip-hop news: From the important stuff like album and video drops, to stories like Lil Wayne getting EIGHT root canals in emergency dental surgery, or Yung Berg getting his ass beat yet again.
In the tradition of blogs like Club Trillion and Paul Shirley (back when he used to be funny), Connor Nolte gives us an entertaining view from the end of the bench. Nolte is a junior forward at the University of Georgia who sat out this season as a transfer from Furman. On the court, Nolte’s claim to fame is that one time he outplayed J.J. Hickson, and that his little brother is a high school phenom coming out of Georgia. Every UGA game day, Nolte posts a video of him hitting a trick shot in practice.
Bufﬁe the Body’s home workout DVD. The goal, as you’d expect, is for girls to get a bigger butt. Yes, there are video clips on the site. So why are you still reading this?
A couple of years ago, the Spurs were at MSG to play the Knicks, and in the locker room we overheard a deep conversation between Matt Bonner and Jacque Vaughn about where to ﬁnd the best Panini in New York City. Who knew that Bonner would eventually come to be known as the NBA’s expert on sandwiches? As the “Sandwich Hunter,” the Red Rocket chronicles life on the road as an NBA player trying to ﬁnd the perfect sandwich (as he calls it, “The Hoagie Grail”). From Bloomington, Ind., to Sacramento to Salt Lake City, Bonner lays the groundwork for a possible Food Network gig when his playing days are over.
Winning Time “It’s a fun one. Tat’s all I have to say.” Tis is what award-winning ﬁlmmaker Dan Klores said right before the screening of his ﬁlm, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. Te New York Knicks, during a Monday night in early December at the 57 Screening Room in Manhattan. Part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, Klores’ magnum opus explores how Reggie Miller proudly built his legend as “Te Garden’s Greatest Villain,” in a battle of teams and cultures as big as Sodom and Gomorrah. Single-handedly crushing the hearts of Knick fans time and time again, Reggie made it a mission to perform under the bright lights of MSG. But the rivalry really all started at the 1985 NBA Draft – the ﬁ rst of the Lottery era – when the Knicks beat out the Pacers for the No. 1 pick. New York got Patrick Ewing, Indy got Wayman Tisdale. At the time, current Knicks GM Donnie Walsh (a New York guy) was in Indy, and it was under his tutelage that the Pacers drafted Miller from UCLA, while the rest of the state wanted local hero Steve Alford from Indiana. But while the ﬁlm focuses on the 1995 Eastern Conference Semiﬁnals that solidiﬁed Reggie as Public Enemy No. 1 in New York City, it’s some of the tales of his past that bring the movie to life. People often forget that it was actually his sister, Cheryl Miller, that was getting all the hype in the Miller household. There was one great story that Reggie recalled, when he was in the car after a game in which he dropped 60-plus and was super amped to tell his dad and sister. Little did he know that Cheryl had just gone for over the century mark.
From Cheryl, Ewing and Donnie, to Larry Brown, Mark Jackson and Pat Riley, the ﬁlm talks with all the key players involved. But none more important that Reggie’s nemeses John Starks and Spike Lee. At one point, Spike recalls a bet that if the Knicks won, Reggie would have to go visit Mike Tyson while he was in prison in Indiana; if the Pacers won, he would get a role in one of his ﬁlms.
We all know how the story ends between Reggie and the Knicks. With moments to go in Game 1, and facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 105-99, Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to give the Pacers an astonishing victory. (A feat that Walsh surprisingly didn’t even see as he hid in the back room of his luxury suite.) It’s what you do in the winning time, that’s what matters. And this ﬁ lm exempliﬁ es those moments.
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks airs this March on ESPN, and is available on Amazon.com.
The Streets Stop Here Tere might not be a more storied high school basketball program in the country than St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J. Legendary head coach Bob Hurley Sr. has amassed more than 900 wins over his 35 years coaching the Friars. But of all the victories, his biggest achievement might be getting his players out of poverty and on to college. (And all but two players in 35 years have gone on to college.) The Streets Stop Here, the feature documentary debut by director Kevin Shaw, gives you an inside look at all the problems the No. 1 high school team in the country faces – from players choosing a college and ﬁghting the everyday battle of the streets, to the historic school trying to keep its doors open. Filmed during the 2007-08 season, you get an in-depth look at how Coach Hurley challenges his players to make the right decisions on the basketball court, as well as in life off of it, en route to a national record-setting 25th state championship season.
“What these guys do after their basketball career is over, is just as important as what they do with a basketball now,” says Hurley. But like most ﬁlms, the story is only as rich as its cast of characters. Mike Rosario (Rutgers), the team’s most notable player, is a McDonald’s All-American who has the dream of making it out of one of Jersey City’s worst housing projects. Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), perhaps the most versatile player on the team, tends to play the background a lot and lets his game do his talking. Travon Woodall (Pittsburgh), a guard who would start on any other high school team in the country, makes his mark in games during limited minutes. Fighting for minutes on the court, his ﬁght in life off the court is just as difﬁcult. Living with teammate Jio Fontan (USC) – the smallest of the bunch in stature, but probably has the biggest heart – Woodall perseveres while his mother overcomes an alcohol and drug addiction. Lastly, Dominic Cheek (Villanova), a superstar in the making as only a junior, just wants to make it out of Jersey City and on to college.
“We realized all we had was each other,” said Cheek, when we interviewed him two years ago. “As a team we knew the only way to make things better for ourselves individually, would be to come together as brothers and see things from Coach Hurley’s perspective. And that’s what you see with us.” While the players are ﬁghting for their respect on the court, Coach Hurley and the St. Anthony administration are ﬁghting to keep the school doors open as the economic recession hits the school hard. Regular donations to the program are slim, and ﬁnancial backers of the program back out one by one, thus forcing Hurley to do whatever he can to save to school.
“What you see in the ﬁlm is out of love for the school and for the program,” says Hurley. “Whatever we had to do to make things work to keep our doors open, we did. It’s never easy, but somehow we always came through.”
What started with Adrian Wojnarowski’s book The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty in 2005, is followed up ﬂawlessly by Shaw and TeamWorks Media this year. If you are basketball purists like we are here at Dime, then The Streets Stop Here is a must see.
Te Streets Stop Here premieres nationally on PBS on Wednesday, March 31 at 10:00pm, during the height of March Madness.
BALLER’S BLUEPRINT Gerald Narciso Marquette University
How To Make It To Te NBA Like Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from the MTV show Jersey Shore, it seems like Wesley Matthews became a household name overnight. But unlike “The Situation,” the Utah Jazz rookie is no gimmick and worked hard to get to where he is today.
Despite being the son of former NBA player Wes Matthews Sr., and completing a solid four-year career at Marquette, the younger Wesley went unselected in the 2009 NBA Draft. But that didn’t stop Matthews, as he grinded his way through the Jazz’s summer league squad, training camp and now their rotation.
6-5, 220 lbs., Guard, Utah Jazz
At press time, the 23-year-old Madison, Wis. native was back in the starting lineup after Utah traded away Ronnie Brewer – a place that he’d been for 19 out of the Jazz’s ﬁrst 27 games. The highlight of his rookie season so far, came on Dec. 12, when Matthews scored 19 points and dished out six assists in a victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The 6-5 guard has earned the praise of coach Jerry Sloan for his tough defense and work ethic.
“He’s not afraid to get up and make plays,” Sloan told the media recently. “He’ll stick his nose in, he’ll stick his chest in and try to guard guys. That’s the way you’re supposed to play.” We recently got up with Matthews to talk about his changeover from undrafted college player to starting shooting guard for the Utah Jazz…
Do you have memories of your dad playing?
school, I had to make a decision on which sport I wanted to pursue.
Wesley Matthews: Not really many. My earliest memory was probably when he was in L.A. when I was two or three. He was with the Lakers and won two rings, back-to-back years.
We heard you played soccer in high school. How good were you? Dime:
WM: I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I was pretty good (laughs). I was a forward and probably could have played in college, but going into my sophomore year in high
You were an All-Big East selection at Marquette. Where did you think you stood as far as getting drafted?
workout and showing more what I had to offer. There wasn’t a single workout where I didn’t leave with a great feeling.
WM: I thought it was going to happen. As far as where and what team, I really wasn’t sure. If I was going to bet money on whether I was going, I would have said I’m going, but it didn’t happen.
How did the pre-Draft workouts go for you? Dime:
WM: Workouts went great. I felt I was turning heads and getting better every
Where did you watch the Draft, and how disappointing was it when you weren’t selected? Dime:
WM: I didn’t watch it. I was in my high school back in Madison. I was just working out. I put my phone on loud and so when my agent called, I would be able to hear it and we could move on from there. It started to get really late and I started to get the feeling it didn’t happen. I got a call later from my agent who said, “You’re going to summer league with Utah.” It was
cool to be going to summer league, but disappointing at the same time. We just moved on from there and took it one day at a time.
Dime: You played well in the summer league.
WM: You have to. As a basketball player, as a competitor, as someone who wants this as a living…yeah. You got to think that you got to run with it. Like you said, you never wish for anyone to get hurt and wish any type of injury, but you know, it opened up a window and everything happens for a reason. God works in funny ways. I deﬁnitely did see the light after the Draft night. But as long as you keep working, keep ﬁghting, you keep being positive, He has a plan for everybody.
Were there oﬀers to go overseas? WM: Yeah, there were some offers. It was a tough decision. After summer league with Utah, I played summer league with Sacramento in Vegas. In that stretch between the end of summer league to training camp was one of the most stressful stretches in my life because it was a waiting game. We didn’t know what was going on. Offers from overseas were coming and going. I didn’t want to bite on the ﬁrst offer because I still felt I belonged in the League. I knew that I could do it. I didn’t see why I couldn’t get in here this year.
After training camp and playing a few preseason games, did you think you had a good chance? Dime:
WM: You know, I knew I had a very slight, slim chance. But I kind of felt if there was a slim chance, you know, I’m going to try and knock it down. If there’s a window, I’m going to try to get through it.
If you were cut at the time, do you think that you would have played in the D-League or gone abroad? Dime:
C.J. Miles went down and Kyle Korver got hurt, it opened up an opportunity for you. Obviously you don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but did you make it a point to take advantage of the situation?
Is Jerry Sloan’s system perfect for you?
WM: You know, I think it’s a system that if you’re committed to playing as a team and all that kind of stuff, it’s a system that can ﬁt anybody. If you’re tough, if you’re hard-nosed, if you love to win, if you love to compete and love to battle…yeah. My old head coach Buzz Williams (Marquette), you know he called me a chameleon one time. He said whatever system I had to be in, I could play in, adapt and adjust to whatever I needed to do. I don’t know if it’s just my ability to adapt, but whatever it is, I can’t complain (laughs).
WM: I have no idea what I was going to do, man. It wasn’t even in my mind, because if it would have been in my mind, I wouldn’t have been in this position. It’s okay to have a Plan B, but that’s what family and agents are for. If I’m concerned about Plan B, then that means I’m not 100 percent committed to Plan A.
You are playing more minutes than a lot of Lottery picks. Are you surprised you are playing so well? Dime:
WM: I’m a little surprised, but at the same time it would be a lie for me to say that I didn’t expect it, that I didn’t want it and that I wasn’t prepared for it. I’ve always prepared for this and I’ve always wanted this situation. I’m very blessed and very happy to be in the position I’m in, but it happened so quickly. It’s kind of amazing from the outside looking in. It’s kind of like, “Wow. Who is this guy? Where did he come from? This is unheard of.” But this is something I prepared for my whole life.
Tell me about your 19-point game against the Lakers. Dime:
WM: It was a great experience. It was a very humbling experience the ﬁrst time we played them, you know, in the Staples Center (the Jazz lost 101-77 as Matthews scored seven points on 2-of-12 shooting). They’re a very, very tough team with great players and a great coach. More so for me, having the game I had, I have to credit to my teammates.
you a little intimidated playing and guarding a guy like Kobe? WM: You know, you can’t be. He was my favorite player growing up, but you can’t be intimidated. Intimidation, you don’t have room for that, because a guy like that is going to go at you.
your contract was guaranteed, had you been living out of a suitcase? WM: I was for awhile, but once I was ofﬁcially on the team and November 15th came, I was ofﬁcially paid like a rookie and I got a little condo. The people in Utah have been great to me. I really appreciate their support. Everybody is so nice and they’re understanding of my situation with the lease on the condo and everything. So I’ve just been blessed. I’m just having fun right now. I love this game, I love basketball, and right now, I’m living my dream.
STREET SEEN Aron Phillips Arthur Charkhchyan
Backside If you’ve ever wanted to actually visit the music store from the movie Empire Records, then Backside is the place for you. Situated in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank – known as the “Media Capital of the World” owing to the profusion of motion picture and television studios located in the area – Backside is not your typical streetwear shop. Tat’s probably because after they opened doors in late 1994, Backside quickly became the largest independent music store in the San Fernando Valley. But with the music industry changing over the last several years, co-owner Eric Flores stepped in and decided to get clothing in the mix. Carrying gear from brands such as HUF, 10.Deep, Akomplice, Obey and the full collection of Te Hundreds every season, Backside is the ultimate lifestyle store. And that’s why it’s no surprise that everyone from Nas, Te Game and Talib Kweli, along with Jimmy Fallon and Ron Howard, have come through.
FROM: Burbank, CA
FROM: Burbank, CA
JOB: Co-Owner, Backside
JOB: Zoo Keeper, Los Angeles Zoo
WEARING: shirt by Manifest, jacket by The Seventh Letter, jeans by Akomplice, shoes by Nike
WEARING: shirt by Akomplice, buttondown by HUF, jeans by Levi’s, cap by New Era, shoes by Vans
ALANA ABNER AGE: 23 FROM: Los Angeles, CA JOB: Buyer, Backside WEARING: shirt by IM King, jeans Levi’s 524, shoes by Steve Madden
Backside · 139 North San Fernando Boulevard · Burbank, CA 91502 · 818.559.7573
DJ VICK ONE
FROM: Glendale, CA
FROM: Burbank, CA
FROM: Bena, MN
JOB: Mixer for Big Boy’s Neighborhood,
JOB: Vinyl Buyer, Backside / Amateur
JOB: Music Buyer, Backside / Publicist
WEARING: shirt by Another Enemy,
WEARING: shirt by Erratic, hoodie and
WEARING: button-down by The Hundreds,
jeans by Freshjive, shoes etnies Plus x Freshjive Junior Plus
jeans by Dickies, shoes éS Edward
button-down by Rocksmith, jeans Levi’s 510, shoes PF Flyers Bob Cousy AllAmerican
Stacy Paetz It would be cliché to call Stacey Paetz “more than a pretty face.” If you want to be more accurate, call Stacey Paetz the hardest-working woman in NBA broadcasting. Paetz is best known to NBA League Pass owners as the sideline reporter for the Indiana Pacers. But she’s also the in-studio host of the Pacers’ pre-game show, host of the halftime show, and host of the post-game show. Basically, she’s Craig Sager with three other jobs and a much better wardrobe. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in the League who does all of that,” says Paetz. “And I’m definitely the only female that does it all.”
A native of Jamestown, Ind., who played basketball, volleyball and softball in high school, Paetz made her national TV debut working a go-kart race on ESPN2 while she was a 19-year-old student at Ball State University. Soon she was working everything from college football to the X-Games to the Summer Olympics, and served a stint as host of ESPN’s “Scholastic Sports America” high school show. In 2004, a former colleague whom Paetz had only met once before landed a front-office position with the Pacers, and called to ask if Paetz wanted a job. Six years later, she has seen just about everything the NBA behind-the-scenes life has to offer.
Dime: What’s your typical game day like? Stacy Paetz: There’s so much to do, my constant fear is showing up at the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time. I get to the arena at 10 a.m., and I don’t leave until after the game. I cover shootaround, do interviews, then write the pre-game show. We have a production meeting at five, then we’ll do some voice-overs. We’ll do a little rehearsal for the very first hit of the show just to get the timing, but other than that, I never rehearse. I’ll talk to the coaches at 5:45, then chapel at six, and the show starts at 6:30. Sometimes I’ll host pre- and post-game on the floor, and sometimes in the studio. Halftime is typically on the floor.
Dime: When did you decide to get into broadcasting? SP: I knew what I wanted to do when I was 15 years old. I saw Chris Berman on TV, and I realized there were no girls doing that. I told my mother, “I wanna do that.” Dime: What advice would you give to somebody who wants to do what you do?
Dime: Where are you during the game? SP: On press row. I’m constantly watching the game, looking at the benches, trying to pick up on demeanor or anything that could be turned into a story. (Pacers) Coach Jim O’Brien is good about letting me get behind their huddle, and I’m always looking at the stats.
SP: I’m from a small Indiana town, population 700. As a young female, people would discourage me, but I never deviated from exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to go straight national (TV), and that’s what I did. I did my internship early in college, which people didn’t recommend, but my thing was the quicker I’m out there, the closer I am to my goal.
Dime: Are you having a dialogue with the producers and the TV announcers the whole time?
For young people, I’d say once you know what you want to do, don’t deviate from that goal. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes, a lot of late nights, a lot of stuff I didn’t enjoy at all. It’s like how the rookie carries people’s bags – I did a lot of work. But I wanted to know everything about the business. So now, more than just talking, I can produce. I know how to edit video. I’m not just somebody who only shows up and talks. The more you know about the business, the more valuable you become.
SP: Everybody is in constant communication. I might notice something courtside that the director hasn’t seen yet, or maybe I’ll let them know, “Watch this matchup” because I just overhead the coach say, “Go at this guy.” I listen to the announcers closely, in case I can add something to what they’ve said or get some information for them. I’ll usually try to have the opponent’s announcers near me, too, so I know what’s going on with their team.
the talent!” But I guess that’s just how my mother and my grandmother raised me.
Dime: You were in Te Palace of Auburn Hills for the Pacers and Pistons brawl, right? SP: That was my first year with the team, and I wasn’t even traveling full-time yet. But I went to that game, and I’ll never forget it: 45.9 seconds on the clock, the game was over. I was literally 10 feet from Ben Wallace and Ron Artest, because I was about to interview Artest as soon as the buzzer sounded. When it first happened, I was proud of Ron for walking away. But had he not laid on that scorer’s table, had that beer not been thrown …
Everything went blank. It was so surreal that I was seeing it all with my own two eyes. I just could not believe it was happening. My first thought was that my mother is watching this game and she must be scared to death. I mean, there was stuff flying everywhere. I was getting hit with beer bottles. After the game we get on the bus, and Ron sees me – I must have been visibly upset – and he says, “Are you OK? Are you alright, sis?” I told him I’d gotten hit with some stuff, and he was like, “What? Who hit you?” He looked me dead in my face and said, “I am so sorry.” We were on the bus later and he asked me, “Do you think my career is over?” I said, “I don’t know. Nothing like this has ever happened before.”
Dime: Does it bother you that some people think sideline reporters don’t do much? Especially with females, they think you’re just there to read ﬂash cards and look pretty. SP: Yeah, that kind of thinking does bother me. And honestly, I know some reporters in this business that really don’t know anything about the sport, they just look good and have the gift of memorization. They don’t have a darned clue what they’re talking about. But there’s so many other people … like, Suzy Kolber, she knows football inside and out. Or Michele Tafoya, she’s one of my role models.
Dime: Name one event you haven’t covered yet that you want to cover.
SP: I’d love to do a Super Bowl. I’d love to do an NBA Finals. There’s a lot of big events in every sport that are pretty spectacular. I’d like to be there for all of them.
People think we just show up and talk and regurgitate a script. But I do a lot of research and a lot of work. People still ask me, “How do you read the teleprompter and not mess up?” I don’t use a teleprompter. I do my own research and ask my own questions. So it definitely irritates me that there are people out there in this business that are on a higher level, where I’d like to be, but they don’t really know what they’re talking about. And even worse, they don’t appreciate it. Dime: What traits or tools would somebody need to be successful at your job?
SP: Personally, I’m driven by respect. I want to be respected. I’m not one of those girls that’s going to dress a certain way or act a certain way to get where I want – I want to do it the right way and get respect. Now, of course I want to look good; as females, we all want to look good. But what’s most important is the work that I do and the way I treat other people. As far as tools you have to maintain, knowledge is a major one. It’s like taking a test: If you feel like you know the material past what you should know, you’re probably going to ace it. I like to keep a lot of info in my back pocket, so if a piece of video isn’t running or the highlights aren’t ready, I can “tap dance” my way through it. So the more knowledge you have, the better. And I hate it when people walk around like they run the place, when they think they are what the world revolves around. It’s not about us. It’s not about me, ever. If we all do our part, we should be a well-run machine. If my cameraman is holding a camera and all this equipment, I’ll grab something to help. Some people get really freaked out, like, “What are you doing? You’re
WHAT’S MY NAME?
WORDS. Jack Jensen University of Southern California
Mike Gerrity Transferring schools is tough. Tere’s no need to sugarcoat it. When you pull your roots up from under you and make lay in a new surrounding, it naturally takes some time to adjust. Like many transfer athletes, USC ﬁrst-year senior point guard Mike Gerrity is ﬁnally ﬁnding his comfort zone after moving schools… twice. Coming from prep powerhouse Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Calif., Gerrity first signed with Pepperdine University in 2005. After garnering some chrome as the West Coast Conference’s Freshman of the Year, coach Paul Westphal was let go from the program. With the coaching change came a different style of play that didn’t match Gerrity’s strengths. Two minutes of PT during his sophomore season was all that Mike needed to sway his mind and switch schools; Gerrity chose to transfer as far away from Malibu as possible, heading to the Atlantic-10 and Charlotte, N.C.
problems that I ran into at Charlotte was that the rotation with the other point guard was in 20-minute [splits] – I played 20 minutes and the other guard got to play 20 minutes. You were constantly being separated, whereas now in this situation, you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder.”
Gerrity had stirred up something new in USC, including consecutive wins over St. Mary’s and UNLV to capture the title at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii – where he was named the tourney MVP. But the same NCAA that had granted Mike his wish to play, was also the one that took away any possibility of a USC postseason due to alleged recruiting mishandlings. In his only year sporting the USC cardinal and gold, Gerrity was gut-punched with another basketball woe.
But after suiting up for the 49ers in 2007-08, Gerrity again found himself stuck in the same slew of problems that he faced back in Cali: game tempo, minutes distribution and a contrasting coaching style. Gerrity decided that leaving school again in search of a more comfortable hoops haven was the best move for his career.
“You know, I’m disappointed because we had the opportunity to play in the postseason, which as a college athlete, that’s what you really work for,” says Gerrity. “But at the same time, it’s out of my hands.
He packed up and moved back home, where he decided to attend USC without even the guarantee that the NCAA would let him play. Twenty-one months after the buzzer rang on his last collegiate game in March of 2008, the board granted Gerrity that rare waiver and sanctioned him the chance to suit up once again.
“I think that people should [still] be interested because we play basketball the right way; we play hard, we show up and try to leave everything on the court. I think it is enjoyable basketball to watch.” For better or worse, Gerrity is still a happy kid; one who’s been through the ringer of NCAA regulations and emerged a better player and person. The kid’s a playmaker, a pace guy and a point guard’s point guard. That’s why growing up on the Left Coast, he followed Magic Johnson and Steve Nash as closely as he could. Studying the way they handled the rock, the way they controlled an offense and the way they always kept their head focused on reaching team goals. For the 23-year-old sociology major, this is where he’d always dreamed he’d be. What’s on tap next for Gerrity is something else entirely.
“I’m definitely the happiest I can be,” says Gerrity. “Just to be playing again and let alone playing for USC, it’s quite an honor for me. I had been anticipating and just awaiting the opportunity for so long that I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.”
His first game back in almost two years was against eighthranked Tennessee. Understandably, it would take some time for the 6-1 guard to re-acclimate to the speed and ﬂow of a Division 1 game. That’s why when Mike dropped 12 and 10 dimes for his first career double-double to lead USC over Tennessee, everyone, including Gerrity, was a little surprised. Before Mike made his debut, USC’s offense often looked stagnant and without purpose. In Gerrity, coach Kevin O’Neill had found a mature leader and the prototypical point guard to run his team.
“My plans after the season are to hopefully continue playing,” says Gerrity. “I’d love to play in the NBA and at least just give myself an opportunity to have a shot at playing after college.”
“I think that Coach O’Neill has always stressed that he likes to push the ball and get out and go,” adds Gerrity. “One of the
And why not? He’s already proven that he can handle a challenge or two.
WHAT’S MY NAME? WORDS. PHOTO.
Austin Burton Marshall University
Hassan Whiteside Humble as he tries to be during interviews, the MySpace page doesn’t lie. people’s bodies when they lay it up. I guess having a 7-7 wingspan never hurts, either.
Hassan Whiteside, freshman center at Marshall University and the best shot-blocker in college basketball this side of Jarvis Varnado, lets the subhead on his profile say what he won’t say out loud: “I dare u 2 jump wit me.”
“I watch film on guys like Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning,” he adds. “Those guys were never scared of getting dunked on. Mourning said a good shot-blocker is never scared to get dunked on.”
A native of Gastonia, N.C. (hometown of James Worthy), who snuck up on the NCAA scene, the 7-foot, 235-pound Whiteside was averaging 13.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game at press time. Through late-February he was leading the nation in total blocks and blocks per game over Varnado, Mississippi State’s senior All-American candidate who holds the NCAA’s all-time blocks record. This season Whiteside has three triple-doubles – dropping 14 points, 14 boards and 10 blocks against Central Florida, 14-17-11 against NAIA school Brescia, then another 1411-13 on Central Florida – plus a 14-point, 17-board, 9-block effort against Ohio. According to some mock draft websites, he is projected to go as high as No. 2 in the 2011 NBA Draft, or in the Top 10 should he go pro this summer.
Although the C-USA could technically be considered a major conference, they’ve basically been a mid-major ever since losing Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, South Florida and Louisville to the Big East in 2005. That was the same year Marshall joined the conference, and around the same time Memphis began dominating what many analysts call a one-horse race. Whiteside is hoping to shift the power balance before he’s done; at press time, the Thundering Herd were 22-7 overall (10-4 conference), right on the heels of leaders Memphis, UAB and UTEP. “The name on the jersey doesn’t make the school better. It doesn’t make you a better player,” Whiteside says. “I come into games thinking I’m the most underrated player out there and we’re the most underrated team, so I have that chip on my shoulder.”
“My job is just to be a big presence down low,” Hassan says. “Blocking shots, getting rebounds, scoring – whatever it takes to win, basically. That’s always been my M.O.” Hassan is the son of former NFL defensive end Hasson Arbubakrr, who played two years with the Vikings and Buccaneers in the 1980s. Told from an early age by doctors that he’d grow to be around seven feet tall, Hassan was a 6-5 junior wing at East Side H.S. in Newark, N.J., before a seven-inch growth spurt between his junior and senior year put him on the radar of recruiters across the country. Transferring to The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., he had offers from the likes of UConn, Louisville, South Carolina and St. John’s before choosing Marshall. “I wanted to change people’s perception about Marshall,” Whiteside says. “It’s a program on the rise, and I really liked the coaches. They’re really hands-on with the players and want to work with you.”
West Virginia sophomore forward Kevin Jones played AAU ball with Hassan, and he saw him go for 18 points, six boards and two blocks when the 9th-ranked Mountaineers beat Marshall in January.
“He’s very talented, very athletic,” Jones says. “He can shoot better than I thought he could, so that makes him that much more valuable to his team. He’ll have a great career there. He’s such a good shot-blocker, you just have to try and get him off his feet and maybe get him in foul trouble. He can get your shot from anywhere.”
A week after the West Virginia game, Whiteside put up 22 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks in a close loss to ConferenceUSA stalwart Memphis. “Rebounding and blocking shots is kind of natural to me. The more experience I get in games, the better I’m getting at it,” Whiteside says. “It’s just reading the ball off the rim and reading
WHAT’S MY NAME?
WORDS. Austin Burton NBA Development League
Reggie Williams In a way, Reggie Williams is a basketball purist. Not that he pores over footage of the 1962 Celtics or reads John Wooden strategy books, but more because he represents the fundamental basis of the game: Get more buckets than the other guy. that he was too laid-back and wasn’t aggressive enough. And it’s easy to see how some might read his smooth style as nonchalance. With his size, craftiness around the rim, and the fact that he’s not considered a great athlete – not to mention that he’s left-handed – Williams might remind you of Chris Douglas-Roberts, the New Jersey Nets’ second-year pro. Williams and CDR both shined in dribbledrive motion systems in college, only CDR was at Memphis, where he competed for national championships and had more exposure. Douglas-Roberts grew up in Detroit and has said he was greatly inﬂuenced by Jalen Rose; Williams also counts Rose as one of his basketball role models. That CDR has proven to be a double-digit scorer in the League bodes well for Williams.
Williams puts the ball in the basket for a living. At Virginia Military Institute, the 6-6 swingman was the NCAA’s single-season scoring leader two times – dropping 28.1 points per game as a junior and 27.8 ppg as a senior – one of only nine players to ever accomplish that feat. He is also the all-time leading scorer in the Big South conference. Undrafted in 2008, Williams played one season in France (13.5 ppg), and this year lit up the scoreboards in the NBA Development League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. As of early-March he was second in the D-League in total points, and third in scoring average at 26.4 points a night.
But NBA scouts already know Williams can score, and it hasn’t been enough to earn him a secure spot in the League. So now he’s looking to prove he can do other things on the court, as well as to shake the notion that he was merely a product of VMI’s highly offensive dribble-drive motion system.
“I know that I’m known as a scorer, but I want to show people I can do everything else,” Williams says. “That scorer label sticks with you, and yeah, I’m gonna score regardless. So I can average 25 a game, but I also want to get six or seven rebounds, ﬁve or six assists. I think I bring a lot more to the table.”
“I think that’s totally false, that I’m a product of the system,” says Williams, 23, who days before this issue went to press was called up to the Golden State Warriors on a 10-day contract. “Look at the stats from my freshman and sophomore years in college, when we weren’t playing that (DDM) system. I averaged 15 my freshman year and 19 my sophomore year. I’ve always been able to score with any team I’ve played on.” As for the rest of his game, Williams was averaging 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game at press time. He’s also been efﬁcient, hitting 57 percent from the ﬂoor and 82 percent at the free-throw line.
Williams grew up in Prince George County, Va., where he lived on the Fort Lee military base due to his father’s veteran status. Reggie wasn’t a big-time recruit at Prince George High School, which he chalks up to not playing much AAU ball and having some trouble with his grades and the SAT. He chose VMI over Coastal Carolina, Radford and Longwood. “The military aspect didn’t have anything to do with going to VMI,” Williams says. “And it didn’t make it any easier. My Dad actually wasn’t a really strict military guy. He was an inner-city kid who grew up in Detroit. He traveled, so he wasn’t home a lot. I had my freedom growing up, so having people yelling at you (at VMI) to do this a certain way or do that, I had times when I wanted to leave.” The fact that his game blossomed in college, however, was at least indirectly a result of the school’s military regimen.
“When I ﬁrst got there I was feeling a lot of stress with the way things were going, so I actually spent a lot of time in the gym, working out on my own, getting extra shots up,” Williams says. “So when I led the country in scoring, I was surprised, but I knew I’d put in a lot of hard work.” Still, one of the knocks on Williams going into the ’08 Draft was
WHAT’S MY NAME? WORDS. PHOTO.
Jonathan Marshall Michael R. Graves
Destiny Brown Destiny Brown owes a lot to her father. Not only has he been instrumental in her young basketball career, but he was the one who put the ball in her hands as a means of punishment. Brown, a 5-10 guard for Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., was on pace to be a soccer standout until a battle with laziness set her on the path for stardom on the hardwood. She recalls using her supreme leg strength to hit the ball at midfield to score goals instead of running the length of the field.
the headlines. I want her to have fun. If you had to pick a basketball player, you would not pick her. She’s different. She’s reading a book while everybody else is doing something else.”
Despite being a football player, it came as no surprise that his daughter had a knack for the round ball. The family connection with ballers is impressive. Brown is a cousin of NBA journeyman Malik Allen (Villanova) and John Allen (Seton Hall). He is also close friends with former Pennsylvania high schoolers and current NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Richard Hamilton, having been in charge of driving the two to AAU practice back in the day. Rip is also Destiny’s godfather.
“I was just standing around,” reflects Destiny. “My dad was like, ‘So you don’t want to run? I have the sport for you. In basketball, you have to run.’ I was not too good. But I started to get better and have more fun with it.” Noticing something special, Marc Brown decided to test his daughter’s newfound basketball skill on a national level. Destiny excelled, her performance garnering a scholarship offer from Rutgers University after averaging 35 points per game for the Gateway ninth grade squad as only an eighth grader.
Spending part of her life in Connecticut and around the UConn basketball tradition (she still has her autographed ball from the 1999 UConn men’s national title team), Destiny learned at an early age what big-time basketball was all about. Perhaps this explains her tiring work ethic, unheard of for a player so young. She wakes up at five every morning to run, lift weights and do skill work – all this on top of her homework.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’,” says Destiny. “There was no way somebody was going to want you to play for them without even being in high school.”
But once she stepped onto a high school court last year, Brown solidified her spot as a top talent in the class of 2012. Her freshman year saw averages of 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists, leading the Gators to the state tournament. Take into consideration that Destiny was also playing with a shattered wrist, which forced her to shoot with her opposite hand for most of the season.
“She has put in a lot of work,” says Marc. “Her skill set, jump shot, left-handed scoop – she has all of that. There are a lot of girls who in the twelfth grade don’t have that. Physically she has to get in the gym. When it all falls down, it’s all about that degree. I just want her to do great things and help a lot of people out.”
“People really didn’t expect us to go far,” says Destiny. “I was pretty happy because my school gives everybody an equal chance. Once I showed what I could do, that gave me my chance to shine. I told my dad I was going to play. I worked hard in rehab and I got some weights and worked on my own. I was telling myself there is no way I was going to miss my freshman year. Not a single game.”
Destiny is mature beyond her years and it shows in her all-around game, having a deadly combination of ball handling, shooting, post moves and an ever improving IQ. From soccer to basketball, whatever road her career takes, she has the support and mindset to succeed.
“You can put me at any spot and I will do well,” says Destiny. “Whatever the team needs and I’m the vocal leader. I will tell my team where they need to go and what they need to do. I think I’m prepared.
The elder Brown has witnessed his daughter’s development firsthand. Raising Destiny as a single father, he has helped ease the burden of colleges knocking on the door – a list that includes perennial powerhouses Connecticut, Tennessee, Stanford, Duke, LSU and UCLA.
“In the college level, they have a lot of ball handlers and shooters. I fit right in. I’m a ball handler and I’m a leader, and colleges need that. When it’s time, I would like to go to the WNBA and be one of the top players like Candace Parker or Diana Taurasi.”
“I am so proud of her as a young lady and a daughter,” says Marc. “She’s really naïve to it. We have sheltered her. I never show her
WHAT’S MY NAME? PHOTO.
Chris Galbraith Meet Chris Galbraith, a sophomore at Washington State University pursuing a major in Sports Management and a minor in Business. As one of our Ballers Network Brand Ambassadors, Chris has signed up countless hoopers that play at WSU’s Student Recreation Center, Smith Gym and PEB. Rather than having us tell you what’s good, we decided to let Chris share his story with you in a Ballers Network exclusive ﬁrst-person account. My basketball story is a bit different than the average athlete. I grew up a basketball fan in Issaquah, Wash., a city ﬁfteen minutes outside of Seattle, and played pickup games at a very young age. Since we did not own a basketball hoop, I would play at a park nearby my house. In middle school, I played on recreation teams every summer and winter, because at that age, I played for the love of the sport and competition.
more and spend additional time learning the game, so I started getting involved in clinics and weekly training sessions at a nearby camp. The next year I tried out and made the JV team, which I played on for two years.
The greatest memory I have of playing basketball comes two days after one of my good friends and teammate passed away. We were scheduled to play a road game two and a half hours away, and had the option of either playing the game or calling it off. As a team and a school, we chose to play that game for our teammate. During that long bus ride and game, I realized how important basketball is and how it can help you cope with situations like that. I play basketball because I love the game, and we played that game for a friend we loved and missed.
Many people think Seattle is a city in the northwest corner of the country, outside the spotlight of mainstream media. Not too many people know the high level of high school hoop that is played here. Players such as Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry and Brandon Roy, just to name a few, all started their careers in the Seattle area, and the level of talent in the Northwest continues to grow unbelievably.
One thing that has truly affected the state is the loss of the Sonics. I had the opportunity to have season tickets for their last season in Seattle, and will never forget attending those games. The loss of our team really hurt the overall sport in the Emerald City, but my favorite rivalry is between the University of Washington and Washington State University. Twice a year, these two teams meet in hostile, yet passionate environments, and I have been fortunate enough to attend games at both arenas.
It was about that time that I started to look at basketball from a different angle. I was not the most talented on my school team, but I had learned the importance of working hard at whatever you do. Often I would ﬁnd myself lying in bed on late summer nights, and would pick up a basketball and walk to the nearest court and just start shooting. Now as a college student, I’ve found more time to just play ball. Intramural games at our school offer a chance for everyone on campus to get together and play, and offer an opportunity for me to continue to play at a competitive level.
As I grew up, I worked harder and tried out for my high school team. My ﬁrst year, I ended up making the freshman squad, but I really wanted to make the JV or varsity. This motivated me to practice
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WHAT’S MY NAME? WORDS. PHOTO.
Jack Jensen NBA Development League
Latavious Williams Graduating high school is scary in itself. While most outgoing seniors are worried about prom parties and future dorm buﬀets, that wasn’t quite the case with Latavious Williams; he was more concerned with which NBA aﬃliate he would get drafted to. Since the NBA instituted an age restriction for incoming draftees back in 2005 – barring anyone the chance to jump straight from the preps to the pros – Williams is undoubtedly braving the unknown. A ﬁrst-rounder in the class of 2009, he was… wait, rewind. Forgot to mention that Williams was drafted to the NBA’s Development League. Last November, the 6-8 forward hailing from Starkville, Miss., became the first high schooler to make the D-League leap and was rewarded with the 16th pick to the Tulsa 66ers. Coming out of Christian Life Center in Humble, Texas, he was considered a five-star recruit and one of the most explosive players in the country. Originally committing to Josh Pastner and Memphis, Williams’ plans changed after academic eligibility issues became a legitimate threat to derail his collegiate start time. Williams wanted to focus all of his efforts toward developing his skills, and a professional route seemed like the strongest avenue to accomplish that goal. After considering both China and Europe, Williams decided it was best to stay stateside.
logged an 18-point, 18-rebound game in a loss to the Iowa Energy in late January, then dropped 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks against the Utah Flash four games later. That’s not to ignore the fact that Williams has had to work through his fair share of difficulties in becoming a better player. “I didn’t know my role [coming in],” says Williams. “I didn’t know what I should do and what I shouldn’t do on the court; I didn’t know what coach wanted me to do. So, he just told me to go out there and play like I was in high school. Right now, I think things are going pretty good. I think I’m doing everything now. I just go out there and play hard and hustle, get easy buckets and rebound.”
Whereas Williams didn’t get the most auspicious of starts to his professional career – mostly dealing with inconsistent minutes and offensive awareness – his adjustment to the game has been remarkably uplifting. The D-League has provided Williams with exactly what he hoped it would: a workplace conducive to developing his talent. Under the guidance of both coach Nate Tibbetts and his teammates in Tulsa, Latavious has begun to add the long ball and post moves – something he admits as his main weaknesses – to his game. The work is paying off, as word from his camp is that scouts are getting more and more interested about Williams’ basketball future.
“I just wanted to get better, quicker than (I would have in) college,” says Williams. “So the D-League is what I decided to do.”
In high school, Williams was a dominant player that didn’t have to worry about proper footwork, ball-handling or a solid jumpshot – he could athletically power his way to the cup whenever he pleased. Thus, he has a mouth-watering upside and you can insert any hyperbole imaginable to describe this kid’s athleticism. Williams also possesses a rare combo of traits not seen across the board with his peers: he’s coachable, has a great work ethic and is modest in the public eye.
“I think he’ll definitely go to the League,” says Haylett. “It’ll depend on his adaptability once he gets there, but when he gets minutes, he does well. It’s pretty easy for him to get a double-double.”
“We [at Dutt Sports] like to see a kid that’s humble about his abilities, but has a real desire to be the best he can be – and it’s there with this kid,” says Jeremiah Haylett, Williams’ attorney and general counsel at Dutt Sports Services Inc. “I think a lot of people look at him and think he’s kind of a slacker because he’s so quiet and humble about his game. But he works out constantly. He loves the sport and really attacks it. He just doesn’t vocalize that he attacks it as hard as he does.”
The basketball world will see just how smart the Williams experiment in the D-League was in a few months on Draft day. Williams’ decision to blaze a new path may ultimately prove to mark an ideal destination for other interested high school seniors. “I would say if you want to get better and work on your game against a lot better competition, come to the D-League,” says Williams. “It’s a good look for everybody. You’re playing in front of scouts – even though you can’t get a call-up – you just go out there and play real hard and hope you get a look from the NBA.”
Haylett, along with agent Tony Dutt, help to make up the core duo of professional confidants and watchman in Williams’ entourage. Together they have witnessed a transformation from boy to man in a very short time. But his greatest asset has to be his willingness to get better – a pursuit that may very well lead him to an NBA rotation next year. When given minutes, Williams has shown flashes reminiscent of his prep days; he
And Williams is definitely making the most of that look.
Aron Phillips Nike
Jerry Colangelo At 70 years old, Jerry Colangelo has never been more involved with the game of basketball. One of the most innovative and inﬂuential owners in NBA history, who in 1968 was the youngest general manager in all professional sports, Colangelo was the person responsible for assembling the “Redeem Team” who claimed gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After signing on as the chairman of USA Basketball’s Board of Directors for the next quadrennium, Colangelo is ready to do it again. We got up with the Hall of Famer during All-Star Weekend to talk London in 2012, falling in love with the game of basketball and the secret to success. Dime: Talk about the squad that you’ve assembled for the next round of USA Basketball. Jerry Colangelo: Well ﬁrst of all, the important thing is we have a pool. A pool with a lot of depth. So when you look at the roster, and you have that many Olympians coming back, and all the young players coming up, it’s indicative of the great interest our players have in representing their country and being part of USA Basketball. Dime: What does it mean to be named to the national team? JC: I think it’s a privilege, it’s an honor, to be named to the national team. And that’s what we’ve done thus far. From that group, we’ll select who’s going to represent us in competition. With the World Championships next summer, some of the players will be affected by free agency, while hopefully most of them will have their business done before camp starts. But we have to be ﬂexible, because they have to take care of their business ﬁrst.
Dime: How dramatic of a shift have you seen since taking over the program? JC: Turn the clock back to ’05 when I took over the program, it wasn’t so in vogue to represent your country. In the prior number of years, we had to pull guys and coax them into playing. We had to change the culture. And when I started meeting with them oneon-one, I said, “Look. I don’t need to be doing this. I’ve been there, done that and have had success. But you know what, I care. I simply love the game of basketball.”
Dime: What happened next? JC: I was a young guy in what was to be a growth industry – and nobody knew it. We were the ﬁrst expansion team in the modern era, and in 1968, I was offered the Milwaukee GM job and the Phoenix job. When I left for Phoenix, I had three kids, nine suitcases and $300 in my pocket. I just got on a plane and went. So that’s how it happened for me, and that’s why in my book and when I speak to people, I say that if it can happen to a guy like me, then it can happen to anyone.
Q&A Dime: When did you fall in love with the game? JC: When I was a kid, somebody handed me a ball when I was seven and I smelled it. It was the beginning of a love affair that’s lasted my whole lifetime. And so nothing’s changed. I’m proud to be an American. I’m not happy the way that people look at us as Americans around the world, or athletes, or basketball people in particular. At the Olympics in Athens, Americans were booing their own players. That really got to me and a lot of others. So I had a chance to change it, I was set on that, and they bought in.
Dime: What would you say is the secret to success? JC: You have to go for it. I met an old-timer in my neighborhood who told me one night in broken English, “You see that star? It’s better being that star for one day than never getting there at all.” Well, that kind of pushed me to succeed. It’s an equal playing ﬁeld out there and everyone has a chance to accomplish things. Opportunity walks right by a lot of people and they don’t see it. You know why? They’re busy whining and complaining about how they didn’t get a shot. There’s a lot of opportunity, but you gotta be willing to take the risk, and you have to be willing to fail.
Dime: In the basketball world, your name has to be on the short list of the most inﬂuential people in the game. How would someone follow your career path?
JC: I come from a poor, Italian neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. I was blessed with a little bit of basketball ability and baseball ability. I was a prospect in both sports. I had 66 college basketball offers and loved the game. That exposure led to me having a career in education. I played semi-pro ball and met a lot of people, but the great equalizer for me was competition. It didn’t matter where you lived, we all put our pants on the same way. And so when I met the right guy who had an interest in bringing pro basketball to Chicago back in 1966, he asked me because he knew my name.
Dime: As stars came and went, were you ever worried about the future of the NBA?
JC: Let me answer it this way. When Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson were passing by the game, some wondered, “Well who’s next? Who’s going to replace them?” And then who came along? Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Now there’s Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The point is, they get better and better. There’s names out there that we don’t even know yet, but they’re on the way.
Q&A WORDS. PHOTO.
Jack Jensen Washington State University
Craig Ehlo Memories fade away, but images last forever. If you try to conjure up an image of Craig Ehlo, it’s most deﬁnitely a remembrance of something he can’t seem to escape. Yet only few know that he was a 14-year NBA veteran and one of the most valuable pieces of the Cleveland Cavaliers contingent along with Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A three-point shooter, slasher and defensive menace – whose legacy is sadly marred forever by “The Shot” he’d love to erase – Ehlo could do it all on the hardwood. “Mr. Everything” was the proverbial hard-working everyman that the city of Cleveland embraced. At 6-6, he could battle with bigger defenders in the low block, or step out to stroke the long ball with consistency – for which he had a knack of knocking down in pressure situations. His best year stat-wise came during the 1989-90 season, where he averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 boards and 4.6 assists for the Cavs. Not so much of a finesse player, Ehlo’s scrappiness and work ethic kept him around the League for a lengthy career. Drafted in 1983 by the Houston Rockets, Ehlo then bounced around to Cleveland, Atlanta and Seattle before deciding to hang up his NBA laces for good. These days, the 48-year-old Ehlo makes his home in Spokane, Wash., just shy of two hours north from his collegiate alma mater of Washington State in Pullman. With his professional playing days behind him, Ehlo now serves as a key broadcast analyst for FSN Northwest and the Gonzaga Bulldogs – a title he’s had since 2003. With Gonzaga already having exceeded expectations this season and looking good heading into March’s dance, it presented us with a good excuse to catch up with Mr. Everything and talk a little basketball.
Dime: So what made you get into broadcasting? CE: Well, I coached high school from 1999-2003 and that was just about the years that Gonzaga was starting to make a good run. The local stations started televising their games and asked me if I would help. I said sure, but I was still coaching high school at the time. They put every game on TV, because no one else was covering it, and I’ve been there ever since.
Dime: Do you still play in pick-up games around Spokane? Craig Ehlo: I play twice a week. You’re going to like this one, as I know you’re familiar with John Stockton. He built a gym here (in Spokane) using the old Utah Jazz floor from the Salt Palace. He bought a couple of old warehouses and he’s got five courts in there – he opens it up on Sundays for us to play. A lot of old Gonzaga players play like Casey Calvary and Richie Frahm, so it’s an old guys thing. But he also lets the local high school kids come in, so they get to kind of learn and play against better competition. It’s fun, and if you know John, he doesn’t goof around. It’s games to seven and you play your butt off or you don’t play at all.
Q&A Dime: Have you ever had any mishaps on the air? CE: Actually I subbed in one time to be the color (commentator) for the Sonics up in Seattle with Kevin Calabro – who by the way is one of the best play-by-play guys in the NBA – and he choked on some water and couldn’t talk from the tip-off to probably about five minutes into the game. So I had to do both play-byplay and color – which are two totally different things – and I got tongue-tied. So I have much more respect and admiration for play-by-play guys since I had to do that by myself. I don’t know if I would ever even consider doing play-by-play.
Do you guys ever bust out your old NBA jerseys during the
Dime: Do you see yourself going back into the coaching ranks or are you content staying behind the mic?
CE: Now here’s the funny thing, John wears his old shorts from probably when he was in high school that come up around midthigh, and some old Nikes that I bet you are 1984 models. So he’s nostalgic. It’s funny too because we play skins and shirts, and sometimes him and I have to take our shirts off and it’s not pretty – but John’s in the kind of shape that he played in for 19 years and he can run forever. Matter of fact, just yesterday we won three games in a row and I was like “I can’t go again, it’s too much,” and John was like “get your butt up here, we’re going to go again.”
CE: Coaching high school was very rewarding, but I think I always thought about going a little bit higher than that. Here’s the thing – and I’ve heard Doug Collins and all these (other analysts) say it – when you’re on the sidelines calling the game, you can pretty much coach from that position, but you don’t win or lose that day. You just call the game, so there’s no pressure on you. I kind of took that to heart because you do; how I was taught in broadcasting was to say why something happened out on the court. Having played basketball for 14 years in the NBA, four in both college and high school, I had a lot of years of basketball and knowledge.
PEOPLE’S COURT WORDS.
IMG Basketball Academy Every player, from those catching burn in the League to those more worried about splinters on the freshmen squad, has room to improve his or her game. So if you’re truly serious about developing your skills as an athlete both on and oﬀ the court – all while chilling on the South Florida coast – then there’s a spot for you at the IMG Basketball Academy. Since the mid-1980’s, IMG Basketball has built itself into an elite destination for budding student athletes and devoted hoopers from across the globe. With individualized training regimens, collegiate scouting reviews and an array of complementing tools for players (including nutrition, communication and mental training), the Academy is anything but a normal training center.
“Essentially, we are just trying to prepare kids for the next level in what they want to do in life,” says Tierney. The facility, which rests on over 350 acres of land in Bradenton, Fla., contains two full courts and an elite-level weight room attached to the building. Each student that attends IMG full-time will have a regimented academic and workout schedule to follow for every day of the week. Students attend classes on campus, practice with both a team and with solo coaches, and are ultimately put on the highest display level for collegiate and professional recruiters. But what Tierney asserts as the golden gem of IMG is something that separates it from its training counterparts: the cultural appeal.
“It’s not just a one size fits all training program where you go in there and just do bench presses or you just have them running sprints,” says Dan Tierney, the Academy’s PR Coordinator. “Our coaches not only teach kids on a daily basis, but they’ve literally worked with players at every level of the game. They’ve seen what works and how you can teach a middle school kid one way and how you teach a pro another way. It’s what makes them successful.”
“The defining characteristic of what we have here is just the overall global atmosphere,” adds Tierney. “You have kids born in 80 countries that go to school here, and they’re all playing different sports; they all come from different backgrounds. So everybody kind of meshes here and matures and learns more about the world.”
The Academy does house full-time students at every age from 14-22, but IMG is much more than just an athletic boarding school – it also boasts a professional set of training facilities and staff that attracts a growing crop of upper-echelon talent. Everyone from All-Stars like Vince Carter and Chauncey Billups, to young guns like Jrue Holiday and Nick Calathes, have taken advantage of what IMG can offer. When players come onto campus, they are put through workouts with trainers and coaches tailored to fit the specific individual’s game, instructed on using better communication habits and fed a set of nutritious meals throughout the day.
Fundamentally, IMG is an ideal destination for anyone who wants to regain focus on their personal goals and develop organizational skills both in the classroom and on the hardwood. The Academy fosters an environment for players to learn, adapt and grow their game, while still placing a major emphasis on a great education.
For more information on the IMG Basketball Academy, visit www.imgacademies.com.
SNEAKER SPOT WORDS.
Oqium While wooden clogs may be the ﬁrst thing that comes to mind when you hear Te Netherlands, I’d be more apt to say sneakers. Back in Dime #50 (July 2009) when we dropped our list of the Top 50 Sneaker Stores in the World, two of them were based in Holland. And while there are certainly others that grace the 13,084 square miles of one of the most densely populated country’s on Earth, there is none hotter right now than Rotterdam’s Oqium. A collaboration between a Paris and Netherlands based team, Oqium opened their doors in April 2009 for what owner Raju Doerga described as a lifelong dream. “We all started out as sneaker lovers,” says Doerga. “At Oqium, we came together with a shared passion and a vision for an exclusive sneaker boutique in a nice urban setting. And that’s exactly what we got.” Set close to Rotterdam’s hip Meent district, Oqium carries the most limited ranges from Nike (Quickstrike & Tier Zero) and Jordan Brand (Pinnacle), along with product from Jason Markk, Casio G-Shock and their own Oqium clothing line. But unlike most shops, Oqium is more like a sneaker boutique housed within a sneaker museum. With deadstock originals from back in the day, alongside vintage Michael Jordan Wheaties boxes, books and footage playing on four flat-screens setup to look like a JumboTron, you might think that you were in the Nike Vault.
“What makes us different from all the other shops, other than our collection, is that we try to give the best service possible,” says Doerga. “Everybody is greeted with a smile. Just like our other shops in Paris and Barcelona, we also ship worldwide, know a lot about sneakers and like sharing that with our customers, other sneaker lovers and fellow collectors.” And it’s that service that has ballplayers from across The Netherlands and Belgium, along with top Dutch rappers and soccer players, come through on the regular.
“We’re going to keep providing The Netherlands and the rest of the world with the freshest releases,” says Doerga, “in addition to small and exclusive collaborations. It’s up to you to drop in.”
OQIUM · Grotekerkplein 103 · 3011 GC Rotterdam, The Netherlands · +31 10 413 1633 · www.oqium.nl
WORDS. Aron Phillips Matt Brown & Dorothy Hong
The Greatest High School Basketball Show Ever While everyone had football on the brain for Super Bowl Sunday, the day also featured one of NYC’s most touted high school hoops rivalries between Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) and Rice (Harlem, N.Y.). In front of a packed house on the Middle Village campus, I made the trek from the 4 to the J to the M for what could have been the greatest high school basketball spectacle ever. As soon as you got there, you might have thought you were at Madison Square Garden, with Mike “Wally” Walczewski – the voice of the Knicks for over 20 seasons – in the house to call the game alongside NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier. And as if that wasn’t great enough, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Florida’s Billy Donovan and David Lee were on hand to catch the action as well, along with Funkmaster Flex on the 1’s and 2’s during pre-game warm-ups. Fans from both sides were decked out in rivalry t-shirts in their school’s colors, with matching foam fingers on either hand. The crowd erupted for the empire-tested battle when none other than Puppet LeBron and Puppet Kobe appeared on the JumboTron rocking Christ the King and Rice tees, respectively, giving a pre-game message to each squad. And in case you didn’t know, as CTK is a LeBron school and Rice is a Kobe school, both teams also had on the freshest of kicks with SMU Nike Air Max LeBron VIIs and Nike Zoom Kobe Vs. Before the pre-game intros, the Knicks City Dancers came out and performed with a real Knicks light show to kick things off. Every player from both teams then proceeded to get announced in the lineups and stand out at center court. It was definitely an experience these kids – both players and fans – had never had. Sure these guys have played in big games before, but nothing like this.
Once the game finally got underway, CTK scored the first two and really never looked back. With 6-1 junior point guard Corey Edwards running the show, the Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead in front of a great home crowd. With jitters on both sides for sure, especially playing in front of two of the biggest coaches in college basketball, defense took over in the first quarter. After one, the Royals led 13-4. In-between quarters, the circus didn’t stop. Members of the Knicks’ 7th Avenue Squad came rolling out with t-shirt guns and began launching tees into the stands. As if taking a nine point lead into the break wasn’t enough to get the home crowd amped, this sent them over the top. In the second quarter, 6-7 senior Dominykas Milka (a native of Mazeikiai, Lithuania) and 6-4 senior Maurice Barrow were doing work in the post. Going up against the Raiders’ Big Three of 6-6 senior Shane Southwell (headed to Kansas State), 6-8 senior Kadeem Jack and 6-4 junior Jermaine Sanders, the Royals extended their lead to 19-7 halfway through the second quarter. For whatever the reason, Rice just couldn’t buy a bucket. Finally, Sanders broke the drought with a fastbreak layup after some great defense by the Raiders. The next play down, Sanders hit a three. But a buzzer-beating triple by T.J. Curry had CTK leading 28-15 at halftime.
So while both teams retreated to the locker rooms to talk about the first half, the rest of the gym was blown away when none other than Brooklyn’s own Fabolous strutted out to center court to perform. With everyone on their feet, Fab graced the crowd with some of his new hits as well as some of his classics, while showing love to the enthralled crowd. (He even made one of CTK’s cheerleaders faint after he walked by and touched her hand.)
In the second half, while you thought Rice would come out firing, it was actually CTK that put the nail in the coffin. Curry came out quickly and knocked down another three, followed by a trifecta from 6-4 sophomore Omar Calhoun to make it 39-20. Calhoun, who currently has offers from Villanova and St. John’s, is also drawing interest from Maryland, Pitt, Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Rutgers. The chatter around press row was that he was the guy that brought Pitino and Donovan to Queens. At the end of three, CTK’s lead was now 46-22. To start the fourth quarter, it was as if the lid was finally taken off of Rice’s basket. Jack finally got a bucket, Southwell stole the inbounds pass and dunked it, and before you knew it, the Raiders were coming back. Sanders, Rice’s most consistent player all day, got fouled and hit the three to make it 55-41 with about 2:15 left to play, then stole the ball twice – converting each time – to make it 55-45 with 90 seconds remaining. But the push was too little, too late, as CTK held on for the victory at home, 60-52.
MY HOMETOWN: Chris Paul WORDS.
Winston-Salem, N.C. A lot of hoop fans tend to look at NBA players up close for the two hours they’re on the court every night doing their thing and forget about the journey they took to get where they are today. Every single player has a story. Every single player is shaped by the people and places in his hometown – the courts where he ﬁrst picked up a ball, the mentors who taught him the game, the environment that shaped his style. We got with Chris Paul to have him tell us first-hand about the people and places in Winston-Salem, N.C. that shaped Chris Paul the ballplayer.
Photo. Jordan Brand
My Parents Charles Paul taught his sons Chris and C.J. how to play sports, beginning with a mini-basketball court in their basement. “While Michael Jordan was a hero of mine as a kid, my parents were my biggest influence,” says Paul. “No earrings, no tattoos. My mom always told me and my brother she was the only one in the house waking up in the morning putting earrings in.”
My Homecourt The best basketball advice that Chris ever received was to use basketball and never let it use him. Growing up and playing ball with his family, Chris and his brother use to go head-to-head on the full court he had in the backyard. “When I was younger, I was always pretty good at basketball. My dad was my coach. He knew that I could score in bunches, so he made me pass the ball and run down the floor, get ready and get the rebound. Therefore if they miss, then I can score.”
My First Basketball Chris was around five years old when he received his first basketball – it was leather – while playing in a recreation league. “You just feel like you’re big business now,” says Paul, “like you feel like a trooper when you have your own basketball. You don’t have to go to the gym and wait for someone to miss a shot so you can shoot the ball. You have your own.”
Photo. Dave Telep
While the backyard was his homecourt, when he got involved in organized runs, Chris did so at the Central YMCA (775 W End Blvd, Winston-Salem, N.C.) and the Southeast Gateway YWCA (1300 S Main St, Winston-Salem, N.C.). This instilled a life-long appreciation for these community organizations. “Growing up,” says Paul, “the basketball court was my kingdom, my home, my domain. I’d go to the gym and there would be this guy there at 2:00 in the morning. I’d be at the gym from 2:00 to 6:00.”
Photo. Wake Forest University
Photo. Wake Forest University
My Hero Chris got to meet Michael Jordan for the first time in high school, a moment that he describes as one of his most memorable experiences ever. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Michael Jordan and how he pushed the game and how he carried himself off the court,” says Paul. “How he used basketball as a platform to just become one of the biggest and best basketball players ever. I was a diehard Carolina and Bulls fan growing up, so the mark that he’s made on my life is unbelievable.”
My College Decision
Photo. UNC Athletic Communications
Growing up in the shadow of Wake Forest, Chris was a big fan of the ACC. Despite only playing two varsity basketball seasons at West Forsyth High School (Clemmons, N.C.), Chris accepted a scholarship with nearby Wake Forest University. “I grew up and wanted to go to Carolina to play basketball, but then I woke up and went to Wake Forest. I realized that I was crazy to want to go to Carolina. Part of it was just that I had been an MJ fan since I was a kid. And growing up in North Carolina, that’s all you pretty much know. When it comes down to the college you go to, you don’t necessarily go to the school you’re a fan of, you go to the best decision for you and your family.”
STATS It’s ironic that whenever you travel, you often look for things that remind you of home. But the problem is – no matter how large your hotel suite – no abode is going to have League Pass. Tat’s why the next time you’re in the ATL looking to catch the game and grab a bite to eat, you should head to STATS. After opening just over two years ago, this Downtown Atlanta hot spot has set the bar for bars. Forget the fact that they have over 70 high-definition televisions and a total capacity of 1200, STATS is the first location in the United States (second worldwide) to incorporate state-of-the-art technology that allows guests to pour their own beer. Now I’m not talking from a pitcher, but rather a computerized point-of-sale system which lets draught drinkers and tap tasters experience the true comforts of home. Turned on once the table’s age has been verified, this revolutionary draughtdirect beer system might cause you to miss your flight. With original exposed brick from the 1900s inside the restaurant, to the small, intimate basement, to the multi-level rooftop deck and patio (complete with four 60-inch plasmas and two fire pits), whatever vibe you’re looking for, STATS has you covered. And with a classic menu and walking distance to Philips Arena, it’s no surprise STATS is the busiest sports bar in Atlanta. Also, for those looking to break into broadcasting, the action doesn’t get much closer. As the centerpiece of the main level, STATS features an exclusive, glass-enclosed broadcasting studio that was designed for Atlanta’s own Sports Radio 790 The Zone. And if you’re lucky, on select game days they even broadcast live.
STATS is located at 300 Marietta Street, Atlanta, GA 30313. 404.885.1472. · www.statsatl.com.
Baron Davis & The Li-Ning BD Doom With the world becoming more globalized every day, it was only a matter of time before sneaker companies from overseas started planting roots on U.S. soil. And what better place than in Sneaker Valley, otherwise known as Portland, Ore. Li-Ning, one of the leading sports brands in China, has done just that with the opening of their ﬁrst U.S.-based showroom located in the heart of Portland’s Pearl District. Tis February, Li-Ning – along with the help of Baron Davis – hosted an exclusive group of media for their grand opening reception. While I was there, I caught up with Boom Dizzle to talk about his BD Doom shoe, the response around the League and the buzz in Los Angeles… Dime: So tell me about the BD Doom. How is it diﬀerent from shoes you’ve worn in the past?
I might just want to take the tongue or different accents of the shoe and apply it to our model. So when you see our lifestyle shoe it’ll be more fashion-forward, and something that people are going to want to also play basketball in.
Baron Davis: It helps a lot when you cut, because I’m the type of player that likes to make sharp cuts. It’s more like a power-based shoe, but it’s not heavy like a lot of the other shoes that I’ve worn throughout my career. With the herringbone style sole, it allows me to kind of have that explosion and that lift. I think it’s one of the best shoes that I’ve ever worn. It’s good to have your own shoe, and it’s even better when it’s perfect for my game.
Dime: Clearly back home in L.A., that’s where fashion talks. What are people saying there? BD: They’re going crazy. They want these jackets too. So when I get home, they’re going to expect a lot. In L.A. like you said, a lot of fashion trends takeoff and a lot of fashion brands have been successful being able to penetrate the L.A. market. Being a young guy who went to college there and being in the NBA living in L.A., I’ve always been able to kind of hang with all the young and up-and-coming fashion people and kept them abreast of what we’re doing over here. All the sneaker stores are asking, “When can we get a special limited edition shoe?” They’re looking for anything. We’ve been prepping and getting ready to target that L.A. market for a big explosion, and I think that the community is ready too. The kids are going crazy over it, and the kids pretty much dictate the trends.
Dime: How have they performed this season? BD: If you can improve your movement and your quickness by half a percent, then you gain that much more of an advantage. And I think from last year, just wearing regular Li-Nings to now having my own customs, ultimately my numbers started going up and it’s improved my style of play. Plus, I’m growing more into like a grounded game – I’m not dunking on a lot of people anymore. So you see me more cutting and trying to shake people up, so I need that pop, that torque and my shoe has given me that. Dime: What’s the response been in the locker room and around the League?
Dime: What can we expect from the BD Doom II? BD: Those are going to be sweet. I think the Doom II will be a little bit more, I want to say, sophisticated. A little bit more classic as far as a traditional basketball shoe. It’s pretty funky. It’s like a shoe that you can almost wear with a tuxedo, and that’s kind of like what we were coming up with. We wanted to have a high performance shoe going into next season that you can wear on the court, but that you could also wear with jeans or a suit.
BD: Crazy! We were playing Cleveland, and LeBron looked at me and he was like, “Yo, BD! Why are your shoes better than everybody else’s?” (laughs) So that was a compliment there, and every time I’m on the court guys are coming up being like, “What are those B?” I think I’ve signed like over 50 pairs of shoes for dudes, and I’ve never ever signed shoes for anybody. So I think that’s also a compliment when guys want autographed shoes, knowing that they’re authentic, they’re fresh and the style’s impeccable. Dime: Have guys talked to you about wearing your shoes? BD: Absolutely. There’s a lot of dudes – guys with contracts as well. But they’re just like, “Give me a pair of them so I can rock ’em.” And I think that’s more of a compliment to me than them wanting to wear them on the court. Knowing that they are in deals with other shoe companies, the fact that they just want to rock mine with a pair of jeans is letting you know that the shoe translates both on and off the court.
Dime: What about oﬀ the court. Are you guys working on some lifestyle stuﬀ? BD: We have. We’ve got some cool stuff coming. When I’m talking about off the court, it’s the stuff that I wear. It’s stuff that I would go into the store and look at and say, “I wanna buy those.” Or if I see somebody with some shoes that maybe aren’t name brand,
Te Li-Ning BD Doom is available now, with a suggested retail price of $99.99. For more information, visit www.li-ningusa.com.
GETTING TO THE POINT Words. Jason Jordan Photo. Aurélien Meunier
From the Great White North to the Southwestern desert, Cory Joseph has made tracks all over the continent as one of high school basketball’s best guards. Call him a one, call him a two, just be sure to call him an All-American. If Cory Joseph is reaching, and we’re talking major reach here, he “kinda” gets it. Still, the logic is as simple as it is silly.
“Even with that,” says Joseph, “people weren’t rating me as high nationally.”
It wasn’t until the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp in Virginia last summer that he began to earn national respect. One of his most memorable games was against Pine Crest (Fla.) point guard Brandon Knight, widely regarded as the top point guard in the senior class. Joseph held Knight to just five points, scored 12 of his own, and got the win.
While it’s true that Joseph, a 6-3 senior at Findlay Prep (Nev.), has played off the ball on the AAU scene ever since suiting up for Grassroots Canada’s program in the ninth grade, the reasoning behind the move was because he was playing alongside St. Benedict’s (N.J.) Myck Kabongo, a junior point guard who is committed to Texas.
“That was the turning point,” says Joseph. “Not for me – it was for everyone else. I knew that I could play with anybody. I really wanted to go out at the NBA Camp and make a statement defensively. I didn’t let him (Knight) touch the ball. If he doesn’t have the ball, he can’t be the great player that he is. It’s that simple. Things just took off from there.”
“We would both bring the ball up,” says Joseph. “It was like a two-point-guard lineup, but I was knocking down shots and he was finding me a lot. That’s just how it worked out.”
So even though Cory has been running the point ever since he was seven years old – back when he teamed with his brother Devoe, now a sophomore guard at the University of Minnesota, to form the top toddler backcourt in Canada – most colleges recruited him as a combo guard who can stroke it, but also help out with the ball-handling duties at times.
Since then Cory has visited Minnesota, Connecticut, Texas, Villanova and UNLV, all of which make up his final five list of colleges. At the time he was chosen as a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American in February, he was still undecided.
“Me at the point and Devoe at the two,” says Cory. “We used to go pretty hard! That’s why when people started asking if I was a point guard, it was like, huh… You’ve just got to laugh it off.”
“It’s gonna be a tough decision,” says Joseph. “You really can’t go wrong with those options. At the end of the day, though, I’m gonna do what’s best for me. They all want me to run the point, and that’s what I love to do. Don’t get me wrong, though … scoring is a lot of fun, too.”
Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck doesn’t see the humor.
“It’s just ridiculous,” says Peck. “Just ridiculous! Cory’s a one. He is a one. Can he play off the ball? Sure. But is Cory gonna be Cory at the two? He’s gonna be a good player, but he’s not gonna be what he could’ve been at the one.”
When asked whether crossing a defender up and dropping a precise dime was better than finishing the same play with a score of his own, Joseph paused. “Hmm, that’s a good question,” he says. “I’m gonna be excited to score on my own, but to be honest I’d probably get more excited about the dime. I just love to pass.”
Peck knew he’d found his point guard when he first watched Cory in April 2008 at an AAU tournament in Pittsburgh.
“He was so controlled,” says Peck. “I think he’s one of the best in the country.”
For Peck, that mindset coupled with the production and results will be hard to replace. Almost impossible.
As a junior, Cory helped lead Findlay to a 33-0 record and the National High School Invitational title last season. Playing in the same backcourt with ’09 All-American Avery Bradley, Cory averaged 14 points, six assists and six rebounds per game. As this issue went to press, this season the senior was averaging 19 points, seven dimes and six boards.
“He’s a winner,” says Peck. “Doesn’t care how it looks, how long he plays… He really just wants to win. In (Findlay’s) short three-year history, Cory is the best point I’ve ever had. I don’t think we’ll ever have another point guard as good as him.”
Aron Phillips Douglas Sonders
DEMATHA CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL In Dime #55, we stopped by DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.) to bring you the training secrets of a high school powerhouse. Covering their Dynamic Warm-Up, In-Season Training Session and Nutrition Tips, we showed you the necessary steps to becoming the best. But while last issue focused on DeMatha’s in-season training, this issue will focus on their in-season drills. “As far as in-season drills,” says Coach Mike Jones, “we believe that repetition is the key in our players’ development. We take everything we do as a team and break it down into small group and individual drills. Each of the exercises reinforces how we want to perform during our games. We also try to set a tone of toughness in our drills. We encourage communication and for guys to push each other through fatigue. Everything we do helps to build our overall team concept.”
As you can see, winning another conference and city championship doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s the year-round training that puts whatever 17 players make the roster each Fall in the position to succeed at the highest level. Right before this issue went to press, DeMatha had amassed a 26-3 record after their final regular season game on the school’s original court, Morgan Wootten Gymnasium. Next season, DeMatha’s basketball squad will move into a newly constructed facility.
IN-SEASON DRILLS Just like the training, in-season drills are all about maintenance. Coach Jones runs the following drills to reﬁne skills that are used in games.
Steve Nash Drill | This drill works on different fin-
Weak Hand Development | In pairs, with the ball
ishes. Setup a chair one step outside the three-point line, and come around finishing in different ways. The rebounder feeds the attacker and then runs through. 10 push-ups for every miss. Different finishes – with both the left and right hand – include off the glass, off two feet, reverse one foot, power jumper (from wing and middle of the key), “Euro” (one dribble and then take a la Ginobili), pro hop right to left (two dribbles and a jump stop), quick spin, fake spin and pull-up (no fadeaway) and double fake for a jump shot (make sure you jump straight up). –
on your right hip, swing over and pass with your left. Once the ball is caught, mirror what your partner did. Then do the same, but with a bounce pass. Next put your weak hand behind your back and fire passes back and forth, without the ball touching the floor. Next, once you collect the pass, put it on the floor for one dribble and pass it back. –
Chris Paul Ball Handling |
With your right hand behind your back, dribble through your legs at staggered cones setup from foul line to foul line, changing direction at each cone. Next, dribble with your left hand, using your right hand to flip the cone on its head at every station. The goal is to get to each spot quickly, doing an in-and-out dribble before arriving at each cone. Throughout the drill, change the dribble move every time through. Make sure you stay low with the dribble at each station. –
Perfect Slide | From one corner of the baseline to the other stopping at the elbow, half court and other elbow. The keys are big steps and keeping your arms straight. You must slap the floor at every point you change direction.
K-State Closeout | Setup in two lines at the baseline where the key hits. The left line goes to closeout the right side, while the right line goes to closeout the left. You must scream ball. –
Finisher | DeMatha finishes their training session with a little fun. In pairs, you hold your teammate’s legs as they walk on their hands (like a wheelbarrow). They stop at the free throw line, half court and the other free throw line to do five push-ups. Then they switch at the baseline and run it back. Once that’s done, those same pairs take part in a piggyback race to the baseline, switch, and run it back. Practice then ends at center court with a prayer. „„
Two Ball Mikan | Great for big men, but beneficial to all players. For 30 seconds you will be under the basket doing lay-ups, while not letting either ball touch the floor. The object is to make as many lay-ups as possible within 30 seconds. Keep the balls high above your shoulders.
WESTBROOK BOULEVARD WORDS. JACK JENSEN PHOTOS. JEFF FORNEY
HUMILITY IS A RARE TRAIT TO FIND SWIMMING IN THE SURPLUS OF FAME AND NBA DOLLARS. THIS IS NEVER
MORE EVIDENT THAN IN THE CITY OF ANGELS, WHERE WEALTH AND POWER IS GLORIFIED TO THE MASSES. FOR SECOND-
YEAR GUARD RUSSELL WESTBROOK, A RESERVED AND HUMBLE GUY IN HIS OWN RIGHT, L.A. IS HOME. GONE FROM THE WEST COAST ONLY IN BODY, RUSS HAS NOW SET UP SHOP IN A LAND FAR REMOVED FROM THE WARMTH AND MEDIA MONSTERS OF CALI: OKLAHOMA.
Design in progress 48
GROWING UP IN LOS ANGELES,
you can either learn to adapt to its hustle and thrive, or be eaten alive by its people and by its streets. Life in L.A. runs on a sunshine state of mind; no disrespect to Jay, but this is the real concrete jungle where dreams are made. Entertainment isn’t just a side project, it’s ingrained in the very fiber of the city. In what might as well be damn near across the globe, one of Hollywood’s own flesh and blood, Russell Westbrook, is turning Oklahoma – yeah, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains – into the NBA’s next hottest place to ball.
“Russell’s always been probably the nicest kid I’ve ever been around. He’s a really tough kid, but he was really nice at the same time. That, and he’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever had too.”
@russwest44: La La land goodmorning.....
As Morris remembers, Westbrook came to him a frail 5-9, 140-pound freshman who clearly had the potential for the collegiate level, but his outside package deterred possible suitors from taking a chance. (Kent State, San Diego and Loyola Marymount were the only schools recruiting him before senior year.) And in what everyone from Morris to former Bruins teammates Darren Collison, Kevin Love and Arron Afflalo all point to Westbrook as his greatest attributes, his attitude and work ethic, have helped evolve Russell from overlooked into NBA star.
It’s nearly Christmas and Russell has just arrived back home to face off against the Lakers for the third time this season; he’s been blowing up his Twitter feed with travel updates all week long. This is where he’s most comfortable, as this is where his family was built and where his passion for the game started. From high school in nearby Lawndale to college at UCLA in Westwood, Westbrook is more than proud to lay claim to his Southern California roots. “I love L.A., I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” says Westbrook halfway through our conversation. Only immediately after we started jawing about life on the Left Coast, did I realize just how much Westbrook is truly passionate about this place. He’s a fun and mellow guy for the most part – it’s pretty tough to rattle him – mirroring his attitude and demeanor on the hardwood. He’s also kept his nose clean in both the private and public eye, not always the easiest task coming up in L.A. where distractions lie on every street corner. Although Westbrook wasn’t raised on one of the city’s famous slew of rough blocks – he didn’t grow up in Watts or North Compton, nor in the thick of Inglewood – it was hardly tourist-friendly. But despite attending high school in a town that boasts itself in the 80th percentile in violent crimes statewide, Westbrook managed to keep his focus goal-oriented and was able to bypass the negative temptations of his peers – thanks in large part to his tight-knit family.
“I would say Russell grew up the majority of his life, probably in South Central,” says Reggie Morris, his coach at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, Calif. “Yeah, he grew up in a rough part [of town] but he had his mom and his dad and they always steered him straight.
“Just living with my parents and making the right decisions,” says Westbrook. “I mean that’s basically not going into different things, like going out too much. Just stay humble and continue to work on your game and get better.” At Leuzinger, Russell was able to do just that, while coasting largely under the national recruiting blanket.
“Russell has never really been a high profile guy, [until] now of course,” says Afflalo. “Anybody that loves the game and works at it like he does, is going to have some success.” Success to date is an understatement. After finding his way to UCLA, it took only two years for the NBA to snatch Westbrook up from Westwood with the fourth overall selection in 2008 to Oklahoma City – the team’s first draft pick since displacing from Seattle. Used primarily as a shooting guard in college, few thought Russell could make such a smooth transition to successful League point guard; alas, the doubters were unaware of Westbrook’s relentless pursuit of improvement. As a rookie last season, Westbrook averaged 15 points and five assists a game, while also being named to the NBA All-Rookie team. As of press time in his second go-round, he is putting up 16 and 7.5 a game for the Thunder, who were in position to make the playoffs. Growing up in Southern L.A. was one thing, but Westbrook’s new home would prove to be a much bigger challenge. To live and die in O.K.L.A. @russwest44: On the bus ..omw too play the lakers...time too get it... Hit y’all after... Russ rocks a new tune these days, one that’s more rooted in cowboys and tum-
bleweeds than the rhymes of Blu and Pac. In a state more associated with tornado drills than layup lines, the Thunder have created a loyal fan base and national identity thanks in large part to Westbrook and Co. Centered around a core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, rookie James Harden and Westbrook, Oklahoma has gone from a virtual Lottery-lock, to potential playoff spoiler this season. Before GM genius Sam Presti gambled on selecting Westbrook over more coveted options in Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless in ’08, little connected the Oceanside guard with the nation’s 45th largest media market other than Route 66. “Uh [there was] a little culture shock yeah. I mean the weather – I’ve never been in any snow – so that was a little different for me,” laughs Westbrook. “You know I had never witnessed cold weather like this.”
Cold aside, Westbrook has become a cornerstone of the Thunder’s franchise and a face to the community of Oklahoma City – which is more of a tech-savvy metropolitan than it’s given credit for (i.e. some writer claiming cowboys and tumbleweeds). That’s not to say he doesn’t try to bring a little West Coast flavor into the jugular of Middle America, “I mean I got to keep it West Coast,” he says. His entertaining personality is infectious and has spurred his teammates to become online video stars with multiple self-produced Twitter music lip syncs.
“The doubters were unaware of Westbrook’s relentless pursuit of improvement”
“Russ rocks a new tune these days, one that’s more rooted in cowboys and tumbleweeds than the rhymes of Blu and Pac” “He’s just a goofball, but Russell’s been great for us – especially off the court because he’s so laid back, so chill and considerate of other people; he’s just a nice guy,” says Durant. “And that’s something that you just don’t see in a lot of people, especially superstars in this league.”
The unique chemistry of the Thunder is evident in its production on the court; through 32 games last season, the Thunder went 3-29. They won 18 games in that same span this year. Before being drafted, the 6-3 Westbrook had never been to Oklahoma; now, it seems like he couldn’t envision himself anywhere else.
“My thought was to go in – it was a new opportunity, new city, great fans – and just go in there and try to get better,” says Westbrook. “I mean, we’re all young and they’re real cool guys and that’s big for us. That’s getting better as a team, as teammates and especially on the court.” And OKC is only going to get better. Westbrook plays with a real passion and desire for the game of basketball that is fueled by his elite athleticism. A monster in transition and beyond affecting the passing lanes with his length, Russell moves effortlessly through traffic and off the pick-and-roll. His main weakness coming into the League was his jump shot – something that he must continue to improve – but his strong core enables him to get better looks at off-balance jumpers and when finishing in the lane. While transitioning to lead ball handler, his passing has increased tremendously (already 14 double-digit assist games at press time,
compared to nine all of last season). But what probably stands as Westbrook’s greatest asset, is his defense; both perimeter defense and on-ball work is a direct result of that relentless pursuit.
“He’s a tremendous player and has a really bright future,” says Love. “I think in time he will be a triple-double guy who gets them consistently.” When the Thunder finally did make it to the Staples Center on December 22, the hometown kid delivered nothing short of spectacular; Westbrook collected 21 points, seven boards and 13 assists against the reigning champs. With OKC down 111-108 and the clock waning in its final seconds, Russell was green-lighted with the game-tying three; however, fortune would send it off the rim in an un-homely like bounce. His team would soon respond: winning 11 of its next 15 games after leaving Los Angeles. Through both his team’s successes and his own personal triumphs, Westbrook has been able to consistently show another coveted trait: resilience. There’s no question that in time we may be seeing Westbrook near the top of the point guard food chain in the NBA – he certainly has the ability and work ethic to do so. But no matter where his career goes from here, the sensation from sunny L.A. is just truly happy to be a part of the show.
“Honestly…honestly I didn’t [think I’d be here],” he says. “Just trying to continue to work and try to continue to get better you know and God’s willing I mean, I’m here now.”
Words Austin Burton · Photos Nike
YEARS AFTER he entered the argument as one of the best point guards in the world, Deron Williams entered this season still looking for his ﬁrst All-Star recognition. Having ﬁnally cleared that hurdle, the next step for the Utah Jazz’s marquee player is to bring the franchise its ﬁrst NBA championship.
BALL IN HAND his body lurches forward as if ﬂooring the gas pedal on an unstoppable charge toward the rim – and then, just as sudden, he steps back and drops a jumper. Later, on an actual sprint to the bucket, he turns his head and body to the right before ﬂipping a pass behind his back to the left, creating an easy deuce for a teammate. The next time, he crosses over right-to-left, sets his feet in preparation for another pull-up jumper, then brings the ball hard back to the right on his way in for a layup.
For a man whose craft depends largely on his ability to conspire and deceive – a professional salesman trained to operate in fakes, feints and misdirection – Deron Williams is bluntly honest when he’s not at work. In this age of the diplomatic athlete, the one who has been trained to say the right things since the eighth grade, we have birthed a generation of NBA players whose favorite phrase is “It doesn’t matter.” (Often followed by “It is what it is.”)
street corners from New York to Northern California, he was considered the best point guard in basketball. Deron still had that big zero hanging over his head – zero All-Star appearances.
How could you say Deron was the best PG in the game when he hadn’t even been ofﬁcially named one of the best 24 players in the League in a particular season? How could you rank him ahead of perennial All-Stars Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups? The path to becoming the next Jason Kidd was going to run into quite a rough patch if Deron couldn’t shake the stigma of being the next Rod Strickland. And Deron, admittedly, cares about his legacy. So forget about the diplomacy and false apathy. This All-Star thing mattered to him.
As his name was again ﬂoating around in All-Star talk a couple months into the season but certainly not a lock, we caught up with Deron after a Utah practice. “That’s the coaches. That’s the coaches that don’t feel I’m an All-Star,” Williams said. “I don’t know what else to do. Last year I was hurt, so I kind of ﬁgured I wouldn’t make it because I missed so many games. The year before, I deﬁnitely thought I was going to make it. But, you know, hopefully this will be the year.”
“WITH DERON, HE’S GOT THE TOTAL PACKAGE. HE PLAYS ON THE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE SIDE.” – JASON KIDD
Not Deron. Going into his ﬁfth year as a pro, the Utah Jazz point guard was widely considered the best player in the NBA without an All-Star Game selection under his belt, and he never hid the fact that it bothered him. Never mind that he’d won an Olympic gold medal in 2008, chosen for Team USA as one of the 12 best players in the country and a key contributor on the best team in the world. Never mind that he’d led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals in ’07, and that since becoming a full-time starter in his second year, had never missed the playoffs. Never mind that, in a healthy number of barbershops and
It was. In late January, Deron was named to the West All-Star squad alongside CP and Nash, and ahead of Billups and Kidd (both were later included as alternates), Tony Parker, Monta Ellis and Aaron Brooks. Playing in front of his hometown crowd of more than 108,000 people in Cowboys Stadium near Dallas, Deron notched 14 points, six assists and a team-high four steals. Not that this season was all that different from the rest. As this issue went to press, Deron was averaging 18.6 points, 10.1 assists (third in the NBA) and a career-high 4.1 rebounds per game, his third straight year putting up at least 18 points and 10 dimes. In a typically close Western Conference playoff race, he had Utah in fourth place. It wasn’t that he was so much better this time; it’s that he could no longer be denied.
Maybe it was supposed to happen this way. The years of previous snubs helped build Deron into the player he is now. For a man who’s felt underappreciated since his days at The Colony (Texas) High School – where he was consistently ranked about 30-40 spots behind teammate Bracey Wright by national scouting services – it was the primary fuel that kept him going after he’d already earned the money (a reported fouryear, $70 million contract extension signed in ’08) and the fame that drives so many others. He still needed that sign of respect. “I think being overlooked and overshadowed helped me,” Deron said during All-Star Weekend. “It made me work harder. It made me play harder and get better.”
“It’s about damn time,” Kobe Bryant was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune. “That’s always been a mystery to me. It really makes no damn sense. … It shouldn’t be (his ﬁrst time). It makes no sense. He should have been in for a while. He’s one of the two best point guards in the world, period.”
Whether he is in the top ﬁve, the top two, or No. 1 overall, Deron has succeeded because of his versatility and complete repertoire. There isn’t one facet of the game where he is necessarily the best among NBA point guards: Nash is a better shooter, Billups is stronger, Parker is faster, Kidd is a better pure passer, Paul is known to protect the ball better, Rajon Rondo is a better ball-hawk on defense, Derrick Rose is a superior athlete … But Williams excels in all of those areas. “With Deron, he’s got the total package,” Kidd says. “He plays on the offensive and defensive side. He loves to be involved in the big plays: Making the right pass, making the game-winner. He doesn’t mind that stage, so he deﬁnitely is one of the best at what he does.” “He can do it all out there,” adds Baron Davis. “Dribble, post-up, shoot. And he has one of the sickest crossovers in the League. He’s a tough defender who takes a difﬁcult challenge every night.” While his athleticism is on par with somebody like Davis – and he’s got a handful of highlight-reel dunks to prove it – Deron is most often compared to Kidd, the NBA’s active leader in career triple-doubles. “Yeah, I see the similarities,” Kidd says. “He can score and fill up the assists. He fills up the stat sheet. He can rebound. He’s a bigger guard, so he likes to post up. He can shoot the ball. So there are some similarities and he understands what it takes to win.” Now that he’s earned the individual recognition, the next great motivator is winning a championship. Deron was close once, when the Jazz fell to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the ’07 conference ﬁnals. The next year, Utah was iced in the second round by the Lakers, and in ’09, in the ﬁrst round by L.A. In total, each of Deron’s three playoff eliminations have come at the hands of the eventual Western Conference champion, and twice by the eventual NBA champion. He is beginning to build a resume similar to Cleveland’s Mark Price, who routinely had his championship hopes dashed by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. As this season’s schedule hit the playoff home stretch, the Jazz were considered a solid contender, but still a notch below the Lakers and slightly behind the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. And if the Jazz don’t win a championship now, the future is even more uncertain. All-Star power forward (and Deron’s Olympic teammate) Carlos Boozer will be a free agent this summer, along with key reserve Kyle Korver. Although the Jazz will have a 2010 Lottery pick courtesy the New York Knicks (potentially
a Top-5 selection), odds are they won’t be as championship-ready next year as they are this year. Not to mention, Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan can’t stick around forever.
“I hope we can win a championship here,” says Deron. “That’s why I signed the extension. I felt we had the right pieces to the puzzle to wina championship.” Deron is the one constant. Just 25 years old and under contract at least through 2012, he is the player the Jazz are building around. In crunch time, he has become Utah’s go-to scorer, trusted to take his pullup jumper or drive and create an opportunity for someone else at his whim. Sloan, a notorious stickler who gave Deron a rough rookie initiation by limiting his playing time despite Deron being the No. 3 pick in the Draft, today often doesn’t even call a set play in crucial moments. Deron has the freedom to decide the game. “He’s our leader and we follow him,” says Utah forward Paul Millsap. “And we have to follow him because of his track record.” “I think that the things Jerry values, Deron brings every night,” says fellow Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats. “I always look at the great players and not so much the guys who get stats. Guys who make people around him better, and he does that. He’s as good as anybody in our league at that position.”
“HE’S ONE OF THE TWO BEST POINT GUARDS IN THE WORLD, PERIOD.” – KOBE BRYANT
While any superstar player in Utah has to answer questions of whether he’ll stick around long-term in the NBA’s smallest small-town type locale, Deron has put down roots here. His wife and kids like it in Salt Lake City – his oldest daughter has taken to skiing. And he is the off-court leader among the Jazz’s younger players, bringing the group together for marathon Xbox 360 sessions at his house and prank battles. While he wants the success and the spotlight that comes with it, he’s not really a big-city guy at the core.
“I’m okay playing in a small market. If you win, people will notice you,” Deron says. “I’m going to continue to work hard in this league. Having new guys come in that get a lot of hype, it’s good for the game and good for competition. It pushes me for more reasons to be motivated.” “The sky is the limit for him,” says Kidd. “He gets better each year. The biggest thing for him is trying to help his team win the championship, and that’s easier said than done. Sometimes you just have to be patient. I think if he keeps working on his game, he’s going to be the best.”
Even after winning a ring in his second year in the League, Rajon Rondo has been doubted. But that’s something he’s come to expect. Now as his franchise’s best player, it’s Rondo’s competitive nature that makes him the perfect guy to lead Boston into the next decade. Words. ARON PHILLIPS / Photos. GARY LAND
IT MAY technically be his first NBA All-Star Game, but for
and Chauncey Billups, let alone the artillery of Generation Next featuring Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose? Nope. Although he talks fast, Rondo didn’t stutter.
Rajon Rondo, it’s like he’s been here for years. In the Reunion Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas, Texas, Rondo is set to take part in his first All-Star media day. Among the Eastern Conference returnees, there are almost 50 years represented of All-Stars past. Joining the first-timer are his Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who by the look of things are on their last rounds. While Pierce shows up in a peachcolored sports jacket and Garnett rocks a shirt, tie and sweater, you can see Rondo in a modest button-down kind of just taking it all in.
When asked to name number two, he can’t lock in on a single player, which if you know Rajon Rondo, shouldn’t be the least bit surprising. It’s not in Rondo’s nature to be fazed by the competition. Always doubted and overlooked – from high school to college to the NBA Draft to winning his starting job in Boston – people are quick to point out his shortcomings quicker than they are to celebrate his success. With a more consistent jumper and better free-throw percentage, he very well could be the best point guard in the League.
Rondo hates these types of group media sessions. Repetitive questions, more often than not about trade rumors or the health of his teammates drive him nuts; you can see that Rondo wishes he were anywhere else but here. The problem is, this is exactly where he knows he’ll be for the next ten years.
After Phoenix basically sold Rondo to the Celtics on Draft Day to look out for their bottom line, the Suns let the perfect player for their system (and their future) walk away just to save a little cash. Four years later, the Suns are still searching for a backup point guard and an heir apparent to Steve Nash, while Rondo has already won a ring and is in active pursuit of another. Was it because they were cheap? Perhaps. Or maybe they too had doubts about Rondo – a guy who has quickly transformed from the Celtics’ biggest question mark to their best player. With a competitive nature that makes him the perfect guy to lead Boston into the next decade, one thing is certain: Forget the Big Three, it’s Rondo’s time.
“Who would you say is the best point guard in the NBA?” one journalist asks. And without skipping a beat Rondo responds, “Me. But then again, I’m biased.” Puzzled by the answer from the fourth-year player, the journalists look at each other in disbelief. Did Rondo not realize that he was amongst an All-Star roster that also features NBA veterans and point guard icons such as Jason Kidd, Steve Nash
I’VE BEEN AROUND Rondo numerous times
York City phenom Sebastian Telfair, hoping he would come to the ’Ville for at least one season. In the end, he wound up losing both.
over the years, but it’s only for this cover shoot that he’s finally decided to open up to me. Perhaps it’s because he knows that while Pierce, KG and Ray Allen are all working out downstairs in the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Mass., he’s the one finally getting the shine. Just two weeks after the All-Star Game, Rondo finally realizes that he can start to let his guard down. Posing for his first cover shoot, the spotlight is solely on him. And for Rondo, this is definitely a new feeling. As the camera begins to work itself frame by frame, you can see that this is something that he could get used to.
“Rajon wanted to go there first choice, obviously,” says Smith. “There was still a week before the early signing period was over when they could have worked him out. Rajon kind of took it as a snub. He had a visit set up, cancelled it and didn’t do anything early. Then in January Kentucky came in one day, he visited the next day and he committed the day after that.” Had teams and scouts really known how good Rondo was, he probably would have been better off making the trip from the preps to the pros straight out of high school. Playing under coach Tubby Smith, Rondo’s natural athleticism and open-court game (which he best describes as “fast and furious”) did not translate well within the deliberate Kentucky system. The NBA was a better fit. Everyone knew it, including Rondo.
Unlike most point guards, Rajon Rondo didn’t grow up a basketball junkie. His childhood living room in Louisville, Ky., wasn’t littered with Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball series on VHS. He didn’t dribble up the stairs of his high school en route to class like Isiah Thomas. Instead, Rondo’s favorite player growing up was Brett Favre. And the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
So when it came time to declare for the 2006 NBA Draft after his sophomore season, with averages of 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals, it was no surprise that his projected Draft position was Lottery to mid-first round. Sure he could play, but there were still more than a handful of doubters. Rather than drawing comparisons to the NBA’s elite point guards, Rondo was compared to players like one-time All-Star Mookie Blaylock and a rich man’s Brevin Knight by NBADraft.net and DraftExpress. com, respectively. But Rondo doesn’t listen to commentators, and he thrives off the doubters.
“Growing up I was doing everything,” says Rondo. “I didn’t really play basketball. I played football, baseball and basketball, so I wasn’t really stuck to one particular sport. I grew up with like, maybe 10 or 12 guys in our clique, and we were always active and playing sports each day. Whether it was football or basketball in the backyard, going to practice or going to gyms – it didn’t matter, we were always together. And we loved to compete.”
“I’d seen him play in an AAU game prior to him coming, and I wasn’t sure what I was getting,” says Steve Smith, Rondo’s coach his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. “I hadn’t really seen him go up and down as a point guard, but I could tell after watching three or four days how good I thought he was going to be. I didn’t think NBA or All-Star Game in his fourth year, but definitely better than the scouting services had him.
One such doubter was ESPN’s Jay Bilas. On the night of the Draft, Bilas killed Rondo on national television: “The problem is he can’t shoot it at all,” said Bilas in the broadcast. “Teams in the Southeastern Conference didn’t even guard him.” Strong words spoken about a guy who dropped 20 on the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels, 22 against the eventual champion Florida Gators and 25 against the Louisville Cardinals, the hometown school that snubbed him. To this day, Rondo still gets up for the big games.
“Darius Washington, a top recruit at the time, wanted to come from Florida, but he had called after Rajon had already said he was coming. I only bring in one point guard of that ability each year, so I didn’t take him. Did I make a mistake? I saw him after three days and knew that I hadn’t. He was long, athletic, had big
“I always wanted to be the best,” says Rondo. “I love competition. I love going against the best every night. I think I play better,
"I ALWAYS THOUGHT I WAS AN ALL-STAR, FOR THE COACHES TO THINK SO TOO, IT’S AN HONOR. I TRY TO PLAY WITH THAT SPIRIT AND TENACITY EVERY NIGHT." especially on the biggest stages. In the NBA, the hardest thing is being consistent at this level each night in and night out. That’s why I try to step up and continue to improve my game.”
hands, didn’t shoot great but was a great defender – better yet, could be a great defender – and he could really pass the ball.” That season, averaging 21.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 12.0 assists per game, Rondo passed so much he destroyed Jeff McInnis’ single-season school record of 303 assists, finishing with 494. Playing alongside highflyer Josh Smith, the dimes came easy. Twice Rondo posted 27 assists in one game, while he also managed to set a single-game school record with 31. By the end of the 2003-04 season, the Warriors had a 38-0 record and a national championship.
Before every game, Rondo shoots around at the same time before hopping in the shower. And during the pre-game locker room meeting, he brushes his teeth, making sure not to be too loud with it. Carmex lip balm in his sock, upside-down headband on his head (he’s been wearing it like that since he had a good game during his first year in the League with his headband upside down), Rondo prepares for battle. And battle he does.
But even with all of his success, Rondo always had to prove himself. Especially when it came to recruiting. At the start of the year, the only programs that showed any interest were UNC Charlotte and Clemson, but Rondo had made it very clear that he wanted to go to school close to home – meaning the University of Louisville was at the top of his list. Problem was, coach Rick Pitino had put Rondo on ice as he gambled on New
This season, Rondo’s stat lines have been ridiculous. A nightly triple-double threat, he does damage throughout the box score. Try 14 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists and four steals against the Knicks in November; 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists against the Magic on Christmas Day and 22 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and four steals against the Raptors in January. Think
he can’t perform against the NBA’s best teams? During a game against the Lakers in February, a game in which the Celtics won by one, Rondo registered 14 points, five rebounds, 11 assists and five steals, while holding Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar to a combined 3-of-16 from the field for a total of eight points and one assist.
AS WE LEAVE the conference room to walk through the sterile halls inside the Boston Sports Club, we find our way to the Celtics’ practice facilities that are hidden to the general public. Having changed back into the cutoff grey Celtics t-shirt and practice shorts that he first arrived in, Rondo wants us to shoot him working out to show off the 12 pounds he’s added to his frame this season. But when we walk down the winding steps to the court, we aren’t allowed in the weight room, as KG is putting in work. Always deferential to the big man, you can see the same fire in Rondo as a young Garnett.
“KG’s KG,” says Rondo. “He doesn’t change if it’s an All-Star Game, exhibition game or the preseason.” So when I ask him whose work ethic he emulates most, his answer is not surprising.
“Now, KG,” he says. “Actually, KG and Ray. They’re future Hall of Famers. And right now as we speak, you know they’re down there working out. They never settle, so why should I? I’ve accomplished nowhere near what they’ve accomplished. They’re perennial All-Stars. That’s one of my goals as I continue getting better.” And that’s what makes Rondo different than the majority of players in the NBA. He got his contract (to the tune of at least $55 million over five years) and he’s won a ring (in only his second season in the League), but he’s still not satisfied. “After I won that first ring, I just wanted to get another one,” says Rondo. “Stay hungry and never settle. Most people don’t get to experience that feeling, so I want to try and feel that way again. Especially with the team that we have, most people can’t say that they can compete each year for a ring, and for the last three years, we’ve been able to contend. Might as well seize the opportunity while I can.” Looking around the court, Rondo is reminded of the renowned Celtics legacy every day, as all 17 of the original NBA Championship banners hang from the walls. Realizing that Allen’s free agency this summer could be the end of the Big Three as we know it, Rondo’s sights are set on No. 18. “He understands hard work and what he has to put into the game so that he can get stuff out of the game,” says Pierce. “I think he’s shown that hard work is starting to pay off, and I hope that he doesn’t stop there. Sometimes some guys make it one time, stop and don’t improve. But I don’t see that in Rondo. I see him getting better and becoming a perennial All-Star.”
When you talk to Rondo about it, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I always thought I was an All-Star,” he says. “For the coaches to think so too, it’s an honor. I try to play with that spirit and tenacity every night.”
But as soon as his first NBA All-Star Game was in the books, the doubters somehow found a way to resurface. In the media scrum deep within the bowels of Cowboys Stadium, the first question fired his way after the game was not about what it felt like to play in front of a world-record crowd of 108,713 people, or if it was nice to get the win, but it was whether or not he was surprised to be playing crunch time minutes. Rondo only needed four words to get his point across: “Why would I be?”
Finishing with four points (2-of-3 from the floor), one rebound, five assists, one steal and two turnovers, Rondo logged almost 20 minutes for the East – including the final 9:55 in the fourth. In case you were wondering, that was more time on the court than everyone on the squad except LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
of the playoffs in a Game 3 victory, he became the only Celtic other than Larry Bird to have three playoff triple-doubles in one season.
“We’ve played that guy 18 times maybe in three years counting the playoffs,” says Van Gundy, “so I know what he can do. He’s kicked our butt on a very consistent basis.
“I think it means a lot,” says Pierce of Rondo’s first All-Star nod. “It just shows the steps that he’s made in his career to improve; to show that he’s improved for three, four straight years to make it to this next level. Obviously Rondo will be playing in this game when I’m long gone, for many years to come.”
“If I knew how to stop him, then he wouldn’t have had the success he’s had against us. Obviously I haven’t figured it out. I think we’re like everybody else with him. What you want to try to do is keep him out of the paint as much as you can. We just haven’t had much success doing that.”
And it’s not just his teammates that have taken notice. The same guys that Rondo mentions in the upper echelon of the League are also some of his biggest fans.
A LOT OF PEOPLE can score 30 points in a game, but it’s Rondo’s versatility and intangibles that make him so unique. Other than perhaps Dwight Howard, has there been any NBA player in recent history with such a glaring weakness in his basketball skill set that can still completely dominate a game like Rondo can? If he could shoot jumpers and free throws like Jason Kidd, a guy who’s improved in both areas throughout his career, he would be virtually unstoppable. But while his speed on the court has defined him, it’s his competitiveness and drive that will continue to set him apart from his peers.
“I’m a big fan of Rondo’s game, because he is an exception to the rule,” says Billups. “He is a pass-first point guard, who is able to score, but he just defers with so many great players on the team. He has the ability to score at any time with his speed, his deceptiveness, the floaters. He’s a complete player.”
“His ability to pass the ball is uncanny,” adds Pierce. “His ability to find guys when you don’t think that he sees them. He’s a unique athlete, man. He thrives in the open court and gets into the lane. The way he finishes for a small guy, he’s like nobody in the League at the point guard position.”
“What amazes me about his game is how he just gets better,” says Rondo’s former teammate and close friend Bill Walker. “And he gets better fast. He always thought he was an All-Star. He always had that confidence about himself.”
Pierce is correct. Rondo is like nobody in the League at the point guard position. Last year, amongst the likes of Wade, Ron Artest, Shane Battier and Tim Duncan, he made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. Leading the league with 2.5 steals per game this season, he very well could get promoted to the First. When people say he can’t shoot, Rondo retorts that his 51.6% field-goal percentage is the best in the League for guards. While those buckets certainly aren’t all jump shots, he stills gives defenders (and coaches) fits trying to figure out how to guard him.
While Rondo’s self-confidence is often misconstrued as either arrogance or cockiness, the people that say those things simply don’t know the kid. Because ever since college, Rondo’s greatest fear was not achieving his basketball goals – so he’s done everything in his power to not let that happen. Hating to lose in anything he does, Rondo is just as competitive off the court as he is on it.
“The only thing right now, and I think everyone tries to do it but he still gets to the lane and makes plays, is try and make him shoot,” says O.J. Mayo. “But you know, he can handle the ball so
“We’re all competitive on this team,” says Rondo. “That’s one thing that we share. On this team, there is a common goal, and we’re very passionate about what we do. For me, I love playing cards
"I’M IN LOVE WITH TRYING TO BE THE BEST PERSON I CAN BE, THE BEST PLAYER ON THE COURT, THE BEST POINT GUARD IN THE LEAGUE.” well, use the screen-and-roll so well, that he’s developing somewhat of a 15- to 18-footer, so that’s even getting tough. At least keep him out the lane and make him shoot a jump shot.”
off the court. Spades is my favorite game and a little bit of BooRay once in R i a while. hil I’m I’ really ll competitive, i i and d I play l to win i in everything I do. We had a kids event up here once, and they came and played Connect Four with us. I didn’t take it easy. I dominated each one of ’em.”
“Just keep him away from the rim,” says Denver Nuggets coach George Karl of how he game plans for Rondo. “He’s one of the more speedy guards in the game of basketball. He’s got great length and he’s got great ability to get into the paint like a Tony Parker, Deron Williams or Steve Nash. He’s getting better at making jump shots, but the first thing you wanna do is keep him out of the paint.”
In Rajon Rondo’s short 24 years of life, he’s already come full circle. Growing up on the gridiron, it was only fitting that his first NBA All-Star Game was played in a football stadium. But while he’s finally played in the sport’s biggest game, Rondo hasn’t let it go to his head. Because in his mind, he’s been there for years.
One coach that has seen more than his fair share of Rondo is the Orlando Magic’s Stan Van Gundy. After singlehandedly dismantling the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last year – to the tune of 19.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game – Rondo was just as good against the Magic in the second round. Registering his third triple-double
“What makes me want to keep getting better is that I just love being the best,” says Rondo. “I know other point guards like Deron Williams and Chris Paul aren’t settling; Steve Nash continues to get better as he gets older. I’m in love with trying to be the best person I can be, the best player on the court, the best point guard in the League.”
THE HURT LOCKER HE’S BEEN DOMINATING THE MIDWEST SINCE BEFORE HIS VOICE CRACKED, AND THINGS WON’T CHANGE NOW THAT HE’S HEADED TO OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY. MEET JARED SULLINGER, THE DIME/2K SPORTS HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR.
Words. Jason Jordan Photos. Kirk Irwin & Carolyn Harris
Four days a week, Jared Sullinger and his father,
Eventually the runt treatment became too much, and one day Jared ran into the house crying to Satch about how unfair J.J. and Julian were being. But he didn’t get the remorseful pat on the back he wanted. Instead, Satch told him to never “come crying to me about something like that again. If you want them to stop blocking your shots and knocking you around, don’t let them!”
Satch Sullinger, lock up the gym at Northland High School on the north side of Columbus, Ohio, climb into Satch’s black Ford Expedition, and head home. “If he’s in a mellow mode, it takes about 30 minutes,” says Jared. “If he’s mad about how we practiced, give it 20, but you’re gonna have to hear his mouth.”
And just like that, a relentless mentality was born.
Riding shotgun, Jared gets an earful as Satch maneuvers down and around dark, narrow streets, past housing projects and boarded-up buildings and shady characters, to a modest twostory house on Forest Street. It’s just three blocks south of what Satch calls the “roughest corner in all of Columbus” (Fairwood and Livingston), but it might as well be 300 miles away.
By the time Jared was six, he’d mastered the art of the up-andunder move so well that he’d even fake himself out and fall at times. By the time he was seven, he’d graduated from the great-granny underhand heave shot to a mechanically flawless 10-footer. By 10, Jared was far and away the most skilled fifth grader in all of Columbus.
“It’s home,” says Jared. “I love home. I don’t have a care in the world at home. That’s where everything started for me.”
“He was just so dominant,” says Benji Burke, the AAU coach whom Jared refers to as his second father. “Satch taught him great skill and footwork. If it was a halfcourt game, he’d eat you up all day! But he wasn’t really keeping up in a full-court setting. He was just way overweight.”
Home is where Jared, standing 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds at 17 years old, developed his soft shooting touch. Home is where the superstar power forward and decorated All-American learned that, in life and in sports, only the strong survive. Home is where a slow, overweight youngster who once couldn’t make a team transformed himself into a basketball force dominant enough to earn himself the title of Dime and 2K Sports’ National High School Player of the Year.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS Jared wasn’t much help to his older brothers – J.J., now 27, and Julian, 23 – when they concocted the plan. Against Satch and their mother Barbara’s wishes, they would pick up a goal from their friend around the corner and install it by the garage in their backyard.
He was a 5-foot-8, 260-pound fifth-grader who regularly ordered two double cheeseburgers, two fish sandwiches, two Quarter Pounders, fries and a drink from McDonald’s and always left his tray empty. “I was fat,” Jared says bluntly. “I could put it down. My appetite was legendary.” The weight problem was only magniﬁed when 11-year-old Jared began to tryout for local AAU teams. “They wouldn’t pick him up because they would want to run,” says Benji. “He couldn’t make the teams, but I knew he was skilled, so I started Team Reebok.”
That summer, Jared cut back on the fast food and averaged 25 points and 20 rebounds per game. “I had a chip on my shoulder,” says Jared. “But that was the summer that let everyone know I could play.”
“He was moving and he was gonna let us have his goal,” says J.J. “Jared was only five, so all he did was tag along and watch.” The final product wasn’t pretty.
As his reputation grew, his height followed. The summer heading into eighth grade, Jared grew four inches to put him at 6-4. The next summer he jumped from 6-4 to 6-8.
The hole they dug wasn’t deep enough and they didn’t use enough cement, so the goal leaned forward as if it were threatening to fall at any moment. It lasted for one summer.
“It was pretty pathetic,” says J.J. “But we’d be out there for hours playing on it.”
“He’s tough to defend, that’s for sure. I expect to see big things from him in the future.”
When the bootleg bucket finally tapped out, the brothers made their way down the street to another friend’s house and took over his court. “It was like ours,” says Jared. “We could play there whenever we wanted.”
There was little sympathy for little Jared when the games started, especially since his brothers had already decided he was a crybaby. On a daily basis, Jared got pushed around, had the ball stolen on nearly every play, and got his shots spiked into the street.
- Boo Williams
“He was no National Player of the Year back then, I’ll tell you that,” says J.J. “If just to boost our confidence, we always wanted him around.” (The older Sullinger brothers would grow up to be stars in their own right: J.J. played at Ohio State from 2003-06, while Julian played at Kent State from ’06-09.)
“It seems like he literally went to bed one night and woke up five inches taller,” says Barbara. “We couldn’t believe it.”
“I would always win,” says Trey. “It’s just not like Jared to go up to girls and dance with them. He’s not THAT guy.”
Adds Benji: “That’s when everything changed. That’s when all of the teams that didn’t want him began to change their minds. That’s when everyone else saw what we already knew. A star was born.”
Today, Jared is still reserved but not stiff. He’s charismatic and cool. You get the sense that he’s fully aware of his charm and the effect it has on people, whether they’re regular or recognizable. Just recently, on a trip to the grocery store, Jared spotted Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman and sought him out.
EMERGENCE OF A STAR
“I didn’t even see him, if you can believe that,” says Coleman. “Kids don’t come ﬁnd me to speak. It says a lot that he’s so personable. He’s just a likable kid and a great role model. He’s the son of Satch, but he’s also the son of Columbus. He draws people to him.” He’s also a go-getter on the court.
Jared is an intimidating presence. His size-18 sneakers hold up a behemoth of a basketball player, particularly on the high school circuit. His shoulders are broad and his voice unintentionally booms. He owns a blue collar build with a razor sharp hairline. His forearms and biceps are as solid as oak and his massive frame, given the right outfit, could help him pass for someone in his mid-20’s.
“Dude looks like a grown man,” says Jared’s best friend and teammate, Trey Burke. “We all get attention as basketball players, but not like Jared. He gets a lot of attention, especially from girls.”
As the focal point of a team that won three straight AAU national titles, the first-ever run of its kind on the high school level, Jared is something of a legend on the circuit along the lines of Dwight Howard and Greg Oden. Over the last three years All-Ohio Red has complied a ridiculous 201-9 record. During that stretch, Jared averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game.
Back before Jared and his girlfriend, Asia, were a hot item, he and Trey would go to parties and compete to see who could dance with the most girls.
His style is as methodical as it is versatile. He’ll overpower you in the post on one play, take you from the wing to the rack the next, and, two plays later, he’ll be stepping out to knock down
Stars Classic in Akron, Ohio, when Jared broke his foot early in the second half of a close game and finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds.
the 15-foot jumper. Think a slightly more versatile Karl Malone with better ball-handling skills.
Montrose Christian School (Rockville, Md.) forward Joshua Hairston has gone head-up with Jared countless times on the AAU circuit. He said that there are times when Jared is near impossible to stop.
“You just can’t teach that,” says Rogers. “He’s an absolute warrior. He’s relentless.” “Jared’s the type of kid that you’ve got to tell to go sit down somewhere and stop working all the time,” adds Satch.
“Sometimes there’s nothing you can do,” says Hairston, who has signed with Duke. “He’s like the new-age big man that NBA teams love. Probably the best player I’ve ever played against. Hands down!”
As a result of that injury, Jared was sidelined for the next six tournaments, but came back for the AAU national title game in Detroit against the Westchester Hawks (New York). Per doctor’s orders, he could only play four minutes at a time.
Longtime AAU institution Boo Williams agrees that Jared “is a special talent.” He watched Jared burn his Virginia-based Boo Williams Summer League squad for 30 points and 16 rebounds to claim the AAU national championship last summer in Orlando.
After his team fell behind by as many as 17, Jared led a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that sent the game into overtime. When the horn sounded at the end of regulation, Rogers immediately glanced over at Satch, who was sitting in the stands.
“He’s tough to defend, that’s for sure,” says Williams. “I expect to see big things from him in the future.”
Adds All-Ohio Red coach Quentin Rogers: “He’s just as tough as they come. He’s done some things on the court that only legends have done. And sometimes it wasn’t the actual basketball part. Sometimes it was just a mindset.”
“He gave me the head nod,” says Rogers.
Like the time back in April 2007 at the King James Shooting
“Jared is just a beast,” says Kentwood H.S. (Kent, Wash.) center
Jared ended up draining two clutch free throws to seal the win. He ended up with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“He’s big and quick and he’s got a million different moves. It’s hard to guard a guy that can take over in so many different ways.” - Josh Smith Josh Smith, a UCLA signee. “He’s big and quick and he’s got a million different moves. It’s hard to guard a guy that can take over in so many different ways.”
Should Jared follow the one-and-done footsteps left at OSU by big men Oden, Kosta Koufos and Byron Mullens, those at the pro level are already watching.
As the high school season was drawing near to each state’s championship tournament at press time, Jared was averaging 22 points and 14 rebounds as a senior for Northland, shooting 76 percent from the field for the defending champs. In his four-year career, he’s never lost a game in the Columbus City League.
“He’s a tough, physical kid and he’s got a great deal of potential,” says one Western Conference NBA scout. “His power game is really good, and I think going to the Big Ten and playing for Thad Matta, it will only prepare him better for the NBA. He does great things on the court.”
Earlier this season, in a game televised nationally on ESPN, Jared dropped 32 points and snatched 17 rebounds in a 53-52 win over Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. With four seconds to go, the Vikings were down by one when Jared stepped to the free-throw line and knocked down the game-winning shots.
Jared isn’t as impressed with himself as others are. It annoys him when people tell him they love him after games, and he just doesn’t get the hoards of autograph seekers that flock to him. Once, after he annihilated an opposing player on the court, the same guy ran up to him when the final buzzer sounded and got him to sign his sweaty T-shirt.
“It was just weird,” says Jared.
A few weeks later, in another ESPN game against Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), Jared played with a broken nose and pulled down 16 rebounds. He only scored three points, but two of them were the game-winning free throws with 13 seconds on the clock. On Oak Hill’s last possession, Jared blocked a potential game-winner.
Truth be told, he didn’t even remember that he’d be donning the cover of Dime or what all of these interviews were about. “Me? Player of the Year?” he says. “On a national cover? Diiiime? Wow! That’s what’s up! I’m a horrible multi-tasker. I can only remember what’s in front of me when it comes to basketball. It’s how I focus.”
Everybody’s All-American will have another national stage when the McDonald’s All-American Game is held at Columbus’ Value City Arena on March 31.
Tunnel vision. It’s what reminds Jared that what he sees in the front windshield is more pertinent than what is in the rearview. “It’s always about what’s next,” he says. “No need to dwell.”
“It shocks me a little, to be honest,” says Julian of all the accolades. “I would never think that Mr. Basketball in the state of Ohio is my little brother. That’s crazy! I’m just getting my popcorn ready for what he’s gonna do next year at Ohio State.”
With that, Jared’s back in the passenger seat of the Ford Expedition, peering through the windshield as he and Satch ride down the streets of North Columbus. Past blocks without streetlights, under old, worn shoes that dangle from power lines, and through the gloom and fog on his way to the happiest place on earth. He slips on his headphones and, just before he locates his favorite Jay-Z song on his iPod, catches a faint earshot of Satch mumbling something about practice.
THE NEXT MOVE Crushed in standing and spirit, J.J. lumbers down the cold corridor and onto the court inside Dayton Arena on March 16, 2006. His Buckeyes just got booted from the NCAA Tournament in the second round, a 70-52 loss to Georgetown. He’s crying. Barbara consoles him. Satch pats him on the back and tells him everything will be fine. J.J. pulls it together for a split-second and turns to hug Jared – an unassuming, oversized eighth grader on the verge of greatness at the time.
Jared smiles. He thinks about THE Ohio State University. On to the next one.
“He had tears in his eyes and he looked at me real serious,” recalls Jared. “He said, ‘If Ohio State offers you a scholarship, you take it.’” Less than one year later, Jared was getting scholarship offers. He chose Ohio State over Florida, Kansas and Connecticut.
“J.J. put them over the top,” says Jared. “I really believed what he was telling me.”
Dime/2K Sports All-American Team
WORDS. JASON JORDAN & AUSTIN BURTON
As a result, hype and reputation play too much of a role in determining who gets what awards and honors, and people make lazy picks, sometimes without even having seen a kid play.
It’s tough to honestly pick an All-American team. Gone are the days when so much of the nation’s high school basketball talent was concentrated in major cities like New York, L.A., Chicago and Philly – now the game is everywhere, with superstars coming out of small Midwestern towns, previously overlooked Northwest suburbs, and the football territories of the Deep South, to name a few spots. So even in an era where YouTube highlights and regular national TV broadcasts allow more people to see more high school stars outside their own area code, the sheer volume of quality players spread around the map can be overwhelming.
While selecting the Dime/2K Sports All-American Team, we aimed to give hype and rep as little weight as possible. Each of the 10 players on this list the Dime crew has witnessed multiple times, both in person and on TV, and so we can vouch: They’re legit. Regardless of class, here is the nation’s high school elite as we see it:
KYRIE IRVING | GUARD 6-2, Senior, St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.), College: Duke Quick, fast and smart, Irving is the most complete point guard in the country. Whether he’s dropping his season averages of 25 points, eight assists, five rebounds, two blocks and four steals or locking up defensively, Irving dominates in every facet of the game. His 30-point, six-assist effort against then-No. 1 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was just one highlight of many from his senior year. Irving will start from day one at Duke and is arguably the most highly-anticipated Blue Devil recruit since Jason Williams arrived in 1999.
BRANDON KNIGHT | GUARD 6-3, Senior, Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), College: Undecided If you’re looking for the next NCAA freshman PG superstar to follow the lineage of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall, look no further than Knight. (Whether he plays for John Calipari or not.) He has all the physical tools you want in a 2K10 floor general, along with a veteran’s knack for knowing when to go into scoring mode and when to distribute. In Knight’s biggest national TV showcase this year, he dropped 48 points against Winter Park (Fla.) and fellow All-American guard Austin Rivers, just one of many monster stat lines Knight registered on his way to breaking Kenny Boynton’s all-time Broward County, Fla., scoring record. According to the National High School Sports Record Book, Knight is the 24th all-time leading scorer in America. Kentucky, Kansas, UConn, Miami and Florida were on his list at press time.
BRANDON KNIGHT Photo. Bruce Jacks
AUSTIN RIVERS | GUARD 6-4, Junior, Winter Park (Fla.), College: Undecided You’d be hard pressed to find another player in the country that hunts and finds their shot as savagely as Rivers. He dropped 42 points against fellow first-teamer Brandon Knight on ESPN, and had 45 against St. Benedict’s (N.J.), another top-10 team. Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach and former NBA point guard Doc Rivers, averaged 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game this season. He’ll end up at either Florida or Duke, but either way he’s a can’t-miss potential one-and-goner, no question.
Photo. Pine Crest School
HARRISON BARNES | FORWARD 6-8, Senior, Ames (Iowa), College: North Carolina Not only is Barnes legendary for the most creative college announcement in history (picking Carolina via Skype live on ESPN), he is the clubhouse leader to be the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Whether it’s transforming into a one-man press breaker, draining an NBA three-pointer with a hand in his face, or going to get someone’s shot from the top of the square, Barnes does it all with equal dominance. His 28 points and 10 rebounds per game helped the Cyclones to an unblemished record this season. That type of production would have been welcomed in Chapel Hill, where Barnes will be expected to revive the ailing Tar Heels next season.
Photo. Aurélien Meunier
JARED SULLINGER | FORWARD 6-9, Senior, Northland (Columbus, Ohio), College: Ohio State
JOSH SELBY | GUARD
In a class full of legit low-post beasts, Sullinger is King. Not just because he dropped 32 points and snatched 17 rebounds against the then-No.1 team in the country, Findlay Prep on national TV, and not because he won three AAU national titles, an unmatched feat. It’s because Sullinger dominates in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s taking his man off the dribble, pinning a shot to the backboard or his personal favorite of overpowering his defender in the paint, Sullinger is unstoppable. He averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks this season and headlines arguably the top recruiting class in the country for Ohio State.
6-3, Senior, Lake Clifton-Eastern (Baltimore), College: Undecided Capable of playing the point or the two on the next level, Selby is also capable of dropping buckets on any defense in any system. He averaged 30 points, seven boards and seven assists this season, combining long-range bombs, sharp drives to the cup, and an ability to hit circus shots almost reminiscent of Dwyane Wade. In what could have been the most impressive all-around single game of any player in the nation this season, Selby put up 46 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists against B-more’s Connexions Academy in a holiday tournament. Kansas, Arizona, UConn and Kentucky are still waiting to hear Selby’s decision.
REGGIE BULLOCK | GUARD 6-6, Senior, Kinston (N.C.), College: North Carolina
RYAN HARROW | GUARD
If we were still doing that kind of thing, Bullock would be 2010’s token “Next Michael Jordan” wunderkind. The height, the Carolina roots and the UNC letter-of-intent are already in place, but what would be more important for the comparison is Bullock’s game. He averaged 25 points a night for Kinston (Jerry Stackhouse’s former school), and while he’s been overshadowed in UNC’s incoming recruiting class by Harrison Barnes, Bullock has already made his mark in the Dean Dome: Earlier in the season he had 23 points and 15 rebounds to led his team to a win over cross-town rival Dudley H.S. and 2011 UNC commit P.J. Hairston in front of Roy Williams and a supportive Tar Heels crowd in his future home.
6-0, Senior, Walton (Marietta, Ga.), College: North Carolina State Harrow is widely regarded as the biggest snub for some other high-profile All-American teams this year, but we’re not about to drop the ball. Not when he’s averaging 33 points, seven assists and six rebounds per game. Not when he’s dropping 28 points in the first half of a game against fellow second-teamer Reggie Bullock before being rushed to the emergency room at halftime with a severe case of the flu. Not when he’s the one recruit who will likely save NC State coach Sidney Lowe from ever feeling just how warm the hot seat next can get next season. Not a chance.
TERRENCE JONES | FORWARD 6-9, Senior, Jeﬀerson (Portland, Ore.), College: Undecided
It’s hard to peg just one position on Jones, because he does everything. He’ll guard the opposing team’s center on defense, then bring the ball up on offense as the lead guard. He literally plays all five positions in high school, and could play at least three in college. Jones’ style is so smooth it looks effortless – and, to some, like he isn’t trying very hard – but watch him for a few minutes and you can see the competitive fire sparking right in your face as Jones plays coach-on-the-floor and barks orders like Kobe. On top of dominating the state of Oregon, Jones traveled to Washington twice this season and blew out the top-ranked team in the state (Federal Way), then beat UCLA-bound big man Josh Smith’s Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) team on national TV.
C.J. LESLIE | FORWARD 6-9, Senior, Word of God (Raleigh, N.C.), College: Undecided Wherever he ends up next season, you’ll see Leslie on the highlight reels. One of the most explosive athletes in the senior class doesn’t just finish spectacularly above the rim, he’s got enough ball-handling skills and athleticism to get there without need of an alley-oop. Leslie averaged 22 points per game for Word of God. He was originally committed to NC State, but de-committed and at press time was weighing offers from Oregon, Florida, Maryland, Kentucky and others.
Photo. Paul Durdaller
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