Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Gallon to attend Thursday's draft
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tiny Gallon doesn't fit the mold of the typical one-and-done college basketball player jumping to the NBA.
His choice to leave Oklahoma wasn't entirely his own.
Once the Sooners' season ended, Gallon found himself at the heart of an NCAA investigation that put his eligibility in question. He had to decide whether to stay in school with the possibility that he wouldn't be able to play or move on to the NBA earlier than expected.
The big forward decided to try convincing NBA general managers he is worth drafting come Thursday night.
"That's one thing about me is I'm very mentally strong. Whatever God puts in my way, I'm ready to do," Gallon said in a telephone interview. "When the situation had happened at Oklahoma and I didn't know I was coming out, I just told myself I'm going to be ready for it."
Gallon expects to hear his name called during the draft and fulfill a dream that he didn't start pursuing until late in high school. He decided over the weekend to attend the draft in New York. He'll be wearing a brand-new suit and is looking forward to shaking commissioner David Stern's hand when he gets picked.
"In my whole lifetime, I never thought I'd be in this situation, no matter what pick I go -- 15 or 40," Gallon said. "Just for me to get on a team and get an opportunity to play professional basketball is a great thing. It's good because I know some people would love to be in my shoes right now.
"I know once I get a shot in the NBA, it's going to be history."
Gallon, whose bulky frame (6-foot-9, 295 pounds) makes his nickname a misnomer, didn't get into basketball until high school and said he didn't really commit to the game until 11th grade. Then he was named a McDonald's All-American and came to Oklahoma in perhaps the school's most star-studded recruiting class ever, only to endure a freshman season in which the Sooners came nowhere near reaching expectations.
At the end of the team's first losing season in nearly three decades, a TMZ.com report surfaced that a Florida financial representative had wired Gallon and his mother $3,000.
"I probably was going to come back another year," Gallon said. "But the stuff that happened, when it happened, I just said, 'OK, well, I'll just put my foot forward and keep going.' "
Gallon said he knew nothing about the exchange of money until that story came out at the end of the season. Since then, he's learned that it was a loan that was used to pay for his high-school transcripts to be released from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia so he could attend Oklahoma.
"It was my mother. My mom did it," Gallon said.
Assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro resigned and his phone records -- which document at least 75 calls and text messages to the financial representative, Jeffrey Hausinger -- have been sent to NCAA investigators. That's one of the few details the school has been willing to confirm three months into a continuing investigation.
"I don't know what happened with [Taliaferro's] situation," Gallon said.
The repercussions of whatever the NCAA discovers will have little impact on Gallon as he moves on to the next level. The Sooners, who were already on probation for violations under former coach Kelvin Sampson, still could be penalized.
"I'm really not focused on that right now. That's in the past," Gallon said. "I still haven't gotten a decision yet. The stuff that happened, I really don't know what the NCAA has done. I just know they were supposed to have a decision in a week, and they didn't have it and so I just decided to come out."
The NCAA disputes Gallon's claim that it was supposed to provide him with a ruling on his status within a week, and says he has not cooperated with the agency's request for documents as part of the investigation.
More than the investigation, though, Gallon believes his biggest challenge in visiting with NBA teams has been convincing them that his 295-pound frame doesn't take away from his game. He's 50 pounds lighter than he was three years ago and he hopes to trim maybe another 10 pounds if needed, although he's comfortable with how he can run, jump and play at his current size.
By now, he's used to the size questions that have surrounded him since he started playing a few years ago.
"I have something to prove every day," Gallon said. "Even if I do make it and I do good my rookie year, there's still something to prove. I love just to prove people wrong and I love to prove people that believed in me, I love to prove them right."