A while ago I asked TrueHoop readers if they had tales of meeting NBA draft hopefuls in real life. I got several responses -- here is a sampling.
TrueHoop reader Will emails: "During the last semester, I sat next to Nick Young in English 263. I did not personally know him before class, so the first several times I spoke to him amounted to 'Good game last night' or 'nice dunk yesterday.' I was kind of scared that he would just ignore me, him being the star athlete that he is. However, I was immediately suprised by how nice he was. By the end of the semester, I can honestly say that he was one of the nicest human beings I've ever met. He is incredibly humble and down to earth. After I got to know him better, it was still difficult to detect even the slightest amount of ego. One time, after heavy pressing on my part, he gave the most subtle of hints that he thought Afflalo shouldn't have gotten PAC-10 player of the year ... and left unspoken who he thought should have actually won. In the course of our conversations (he showed up to pretty much every class, usually early), I learned many different things. For example, he claims that the best dunk he has ever done was an off the back board and then through the legs. (Although this Young dunk is pretty sweet also.) Also, viewers of USC basketball may have noticed that Nick smiles often on the court. That's the truth of him. He's just a happy guy. Even after Afflalo ripped our heart out at home, the next day Nick just smiled at me and said 'Don't worry about it man, we'll get them in the tourney.' Even after the loss to UNC, Nick didn't seem that down. Sure, he questioned the wisdom of putting Keith Wilkinson in after Taj Gibson got his fourth foul (he suggested RouSean Cromwell or N'Diaye due to their superior athleticism), but he also said that coach had to do what he thought was best, and they all had to respect that. Lastly, my favorite exchange with Nick was where he invited me to the Galen Center for open tryouts. After joking that I would just dunk once and then leave, he kind of stared at me in disbelief (I'm a 6'1 white kid). After laughing, he looked me straight in the eye and said, 'You can't dunk.' I said, 'Nick, I first threw down on the last day of P.E. in 8th grade.' He seemed to get excited and said 'Alright man, we'll see. I'ma get you the open gym times and then we'll see if you can actually dunk.' He said it in such a good natured way that there was absolutely no way I could conceive of taking offense. Alas, soon after this, he declared for the draft and pulled out of classes. That was the last time I talked to him. So, here's my message to Nick: Nick, if you somehow end up reading this, know that our dunk contest will happen someday."
TrueHoop reader Adam emails: "I'm a senior at the University of Texas, and I played against Kevin Durant in a pick-up game. I'm 6-2, pretty scrawny, and not very good at basketball in the D-1 sense, but I can hold my own against non-collegiate athletes. My buddies and I were waiting at the gym on campus to play a game late one night and we noticed that KD and a few of his friends were playing a few courts down, so we got in line to play, thinking it would be cool to shoot around and play with KD, as he's the man on campus (or was, I guess). We start playing, and everyone's just goofing around, jacking up threes, until someone blocked one of KD's teammate's shots. To be fair, the guy who got his shot swatted sucked. They got super-intense, and the next time down the court, KD started posting me up all serious-like (I was the tallest player on my team, and therefore was the most 'qualified' to guard him). All of a sudden he spun towards the basket, but not before slamming his pointy elbow right in my eye. After dunking on us, he yelled 'don't talk s--- if you can't back it up' (that was heavily edited). I quipped, 'Isn't it past your curfew?' I'd like to say that I led my team to an upset victory, or even I j'ed a 3 in his face, but no. He single-handedly dominated us, literally with his teammates watching, as he would block our shots or steal the ball, and then drive into the lane and slam it home. (Scouts say he's skinny, but they wouldn't say that when they see him barreling toward you, as you debate for like half a millisecond if you're gonna take the charge before you run and duck. He's a big dude.) Needless to say, we didn't score another point. After that game, he didn't say anything, and just stormed off the court and out of the gym, probably feeling good about himself by dominating a bunch of out-of-shape frat guys. That's my personal experience with Kevin Durant."
TrueHoop reader Daniel went to Boston College with Jared Dudley and emails: "My freshman year, I lived on the same floor with Jared Dudley. We both lived on the second floor. There was one night when I had my room door open. I was sitting at my desk and I had my TV on. I'm pretty sure it was Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. I definitely know the Oakland A's were playing. (I think this was in the Spring of 2004). And who comes walking down the hallway? Jared Dudley. He then peaked into my room and saw the baseball game. Dudley is from California and was interested so he took a few steps into my room to check the score. We didn't really talk that much; he then moved on down the hallway to his room. There was another time freshman year. Jared Dudley, Sean Marshall (SG/SF for the basketball team), and a bunch of other athletes (football players like Dejuan Tribble, a defensive back and a friend of Sean Williams) lived on the Claver section of the second floor of the dorm building; I lived right next to them on the Loyola section of the floor ... outside of the building was a pretty nice outdoor basketball court. Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall would never play in the pickup games, but they would often sit courtside and watch the games and occasionally make comments or yell something. Pickup games were happening all the time even in the freezing winter at 1 am ... it was fun. There was this one pickup game where I was on fire; I kept draining three-pointers and a second before I was about to attempt another three Sean Marshall yelled "money!" I got too nervous having Dudley and Marshall there commenting so I just passed the ball.
TrueHoop reader Brandon got to know Coby Karl at Boise State: "I was a manager at BSU several years ago, and have only good things to say about him. He came to BSU, and was just physically overpowered by the other players. He redshirted his first year, and spent a lot of time working on his physical strength, and by his redshirt freshman year, he was a big-time contributor to the team. He basically lived in the gym, and I would give him tapes to study all the time. As one of the assistants told me about Coby, 'He is all about ball.'"
TrueHoop reader Eddie on Russell Carter: "Russ Carter from Notre Dame was in my dorm and was roommates with one of my best friends his freshman and sophomore years. He is a really nice guy, its been fun getting to know him better and watch him grow as a player. He was really frustrated Freshman year with his lack of playing time, and I know that he and Coach Brey butted heads a few times, but he grew in to a great player for us and is now, in most of the mock drafts i've seen, has worked himself into a 2nd round draft pick."
TrueHoop reader Scott played high school and AAU basketball with Al Horford: "There really wasn't anybody that could match up with him at all, and we just dominated most other teams. We went to AAU nationals in Bloomington, Indi
ana at that sportsplex gym and we played a total of 10 games there during the tournament. Over those 10 games we went 10-0 and won the national title. I don't think we would have won the title if it wasn't for Al, not to say that he was the only reason we won because we had a solid team, but with his presence at center it sure made things a lot easier on the rest of us as teamates to raise our games and play with confidence. The next year I only played half the summer because of my knee injury, but watched him as much as I could during the high school season. Not only was Al a terrific basketball player, but he was also a great friend. He was quiet and shy at first but once you got to know him he was very funny."
TrueHoop reader Anna works in the stadium at the University of Florida and has met several Gators: "I've gotten to meet most of the Gator boys. Unfortunately, I never got to meet Taurean Green or Al Horford -- they're not too into the meet-and-greet thing, apparently -- but I've met the others several times. A lot of people have the wrong impression of Joakim Noah. This is due, I think, to his incessant ridiculousness around the time of the tournament and the championship this year. When he's not goofing off, he's actually very intelligent, well-spoken and gracious to the fans (since most of the people there for autographs were unabashedly there just for him). His sister's seriously, seriously drop-dead gorgeous, and he's actually not bad-looking in person. No, really, he's not. People were asking him for crazy things -- one girl asked for him to sign her roommate's socks (new ones still packaged together), another had him sign every issue of the Gainesville Sun that he was on the cover of, another just wanted to touch his hair, and of course, he did everything they asked. Oh, and the only time he dropped his guard was when he hugged a tiny little old woman who was with his family -- he was so delighted to see her, he was like a little kid. I told Chris Richard that my goal in life was to one day be as cool as him, and I meant it. The impression I have of him mostly consists of his fashion sense -- a teal and white tie-dyed cloth members-only jacket with stretch purple cuffs, bright orange sneakers, and huge headphones worn antenna-style on his head over his ears, for instance. I took a picture of my hand up against his (it didn't quite reach the end of his palm) and he laughed the entire time. Corey Brewer is not just the nicest athlete I've ever met -- he's possibly the nicest person I've ever met in general. The first time I met him, after the Tennessee game, he was signing autographs, but he wouldn't sign anything until after he finished talking with some Tennessee fans -- friends of his from home, I assume. Once they left, he talked and signed until everyone else had left too. I met him again after they clinched the SEC regular season, and he was in an even better mood than he usually is. I was standing at the top of the bleachers next to the gate they come out of (most people had left after they told us that all the players were gone, but they LIED) and I was delighted to see him. I held out my arms and said, "Corey!" and he grinned that huge grin of his and hugged me. And, maybe it's the sheer hugeness of the shirts he wears, but he didn't seem very bony at all. The picture I have with him is my favorite, because he's the only one not faking his smile. He's shy, but he would never cut short fans who were there for him."