Posted Mar 12 2011 10:13AM
NBA teams vet their potential draft picks like presidential candidates, using all sorts of tools and tests to determine mental and physical worthiness. But there's one thing that can't be measured -- not with any certainty anyway -- and that's heart, desire, want to. Ask Kenneth Faried, the pride of Morehead State, why he recently passed Tim Duncan as the NCAA's leading rebounder in the freshman era (post 1973) and he'll trot out the standard "will and toughness" maxims. But prod him a little bit, as NBA teams will surely do, and the real reason he's been called the next Dennis Rodman surfaces.
Faried's mother Waudda suffers from lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks the body's natural defense system, causing inflammation, pain, and tissue damage. Lupus is incurable but can be managed with rest, exercise, medication, and, apparently in the case of Waudda, rebounds.
"Seeing my mother fight through lupus, that's one of those things that sticks with you," Faried said. "She's kept fighting all these years and tried to survive. I've learned a lot from her, about not quitting, having passion about everything you do. She's passionate about rebounding for me. So that's why, every time I play, I just tell myself every rebound I get is going to add an extra day to her life."
If that's true, Waudda Faried is going to outlive us all. With at least one more game -- in next week's NCAA Tournament -- still to play, Faried has racked up 1,643 rebounds. No player since the NCAA began allowing freshmen eligibility in 1973 has grabbed more. Faried's rebound total is 11th in NCAA history, and as if he needed any more motivation to chase down errant shots, he's still not the all-time leading rebounder at his own school. Steve Hamilton stands just ahead of Faried in 10th place with 1,675.
Don't put it past Faried, who's leading Division I in rebounding for the second straight season (14.5 rpg), to slip by Hamilton. Faried has grabbed 20 or more boards in five games this season, including 23 against Tennessee State. That performance made Tennessee State coach John Cooper a fan for life.
"First of all, you've got to understand, the guy is unique," Cooper said. "And there's a side of him, that, as a coach, you just absolutely love. Work ethic, toughness, determination, whatever you want to call it, you just have a sense of appreciation for him.
"What he does, night in and night out, there's not a coach in America that would not want him on his side. Not one."
Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall is just glad Faried's on his side. Four years ago, when he was starting to rebuild a struggling program, Tyndall gained the slimmest of connections to Faried because he had recruited a player from Faried's native New Jersey at a previous job. Not that Tyndall needed more than a brief intro. Division I coaches weren't exactly falling over themselves to recruit Faried, who at the time wasn't much heftier than a No. 2 pencil at 6-foot-8 and 185 pounds. Worse, he wasn't qualified academically.
Once Tyndall discovered Faried, he hung in there with him until he gained eligibility, whereupon a grateful Faried promptly signed scholarship papers. Tyndall had stolen one, and a two-time NCAA Tournament team at a school that had traditionally struggled gained its primary building block.
Not once in the four years he's coached Faried has Tyndall laid any claim to the big man's ability to board. But Tyndall did introduce Faried to the weight room, where he added 40 pounds of muscle. Like Cooper and everyone else who watches Faried play, Tyndall is just a fan, albeit one who has put in a lot of time studying what makes his star player so great at what he does.
"There are three things that go into being a great rebounder," Tyndall said. "One, you have to have incredible drive or passion to chase the ball. Two, you have to have a great second jump; if you miss-time your first jump, your second jump has to be just as good. And three, you have to have good hands.
"Kenny's got great hands. He can get just one hand on a ball and get it away from a guy who has two hands on it."
Lest anyone think Faried has fattened up his rebound numbers playing against mid-major competition, he's actually put together some of his best games against Top 25 teams.
"That's Dennis Rodman all over again," Florida coach Billy Donovan said after Faried torched his frontcourt, thought to be the best in the Southeastern Conference, for 20 points and 18 boards. "If I was an NBA general manager I'd be taking him with my pick. That's what a next-level guy looks like."
"The big kid is legit," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said even before Faried went for 15 and 12 against the Buckeyes. "... He's on the glass on every shot. ... I think he's the epitome of a power forward."
If Faried becomes the epitome of an NBA power forward, he'll have his mother to thank. Frustrated when he wasn't scoring much for his youth league basketball team, Faried asked Waudda what he should do. She offered some sage advice.
"She told me to just go get my teammates' misses," Faried said. "If I wanted to score, I needed to create my own opportunities."
Little did mother or son realize at the time, but going after misses will one day provide a comfortable living for them both. NBA general managers should take note: Faried's desire to be the king of the carom will never change, and for good reason.
"My mother loves it," Faried said. "She's always loved to hear more about my rebounding than my scoring. When I call her after a game, I'll tell her about my points or dunks, and she always says, 'how many rebounds did you get?' If I say nine, that's not good enough, even if I scored 20 points. So I'm always trying to get double figures. I can't let her down."
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