Posted May 30, 2014 10:43 AM
Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie was motoring up the court in a game at Washington in January when he stopped and planted his left foot, just as he had done thousands of times before in a lifetime of playing basketball.
But this time, the result was different. As soon as he came to a stop, Dinwiddie's leg buckled and he fell to the court in a heap. Colorado coach Tad Boyle, whose view of the play had been obstructed by players and officials, wasn't quite sure what happened.
"But I could see the looks on the officials' faces," Boyle said. "And to me, that said, 'you better get out there right away.' "
Dinwiddie was in pain, but he wasn't quite sure what had happened.
"I hit the ground," Dinwiddie said. "But I didn't hear [his knee] pop or anything. I just though I'd twisted my kneecap. That's the way it felt. I didn't know until I straightened my leg out that it was something worse."
Dinwiddie had torn his ACL, disrupting what was shaping up to be the best of his three seasons at Colorado and, some NBA Draft analysts theorized, essentially forcing him back to Boulder for his senior season. At 6-foot-6, with a 6-9 wingspan and point-guard skills, Dinwiddie had been an intriguing NBA prospect. But the injury was bound to set him back and dictate his return to school.
Anyone that thought a torn ACL was enough to disrupt the career path Dinwiddie had mapped out for himself didn't know the man. Since he was a 5-foot-8, 150-pound freshman at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., he told anyone who would listen that he was bound for the NBA. That would be his narrow-minded focus for the next seven years. His timetable would not be disrupted.
"That's one of the many things that stands out about Spencer," Boyle said. "He's a confident dude."
That confidence comes from his family. When Dinwiddie, scrawny as he was entering high school, made his proclamation about the NBA, no one at home laughed out loud, or tried to discourage him.
"I have to give credit to my family," Dinwiddie said. "My parents never openly doubted me. They always told me, 'you can do whatever you want. If you want to be president of the United States, or the head of NASA, go ahead and put the work in, and do it.' That's where I get my confidence. I believe in myself, because my parents believed in me."
Malcolm and Stephanie Dinwiddie could write a book on parenting. The foundation of confidence they instilled in their son, their emphasis on education, on chasing dreams, took hold early.
Boyle remembers the day he knew his rebuilding efforts at Colorado had risen to a higher level. That's when Dinwiddie decided against going to Harvard -- where he might have made good on any political or aeronautic aspirations -- and chose to join Boyle at Colorado. The Buffaloes, with Dinwiddie running the show, played in the NCAA tournament for three straight seasons, a school record.
"Thank God he chose us," Boyle said. "It was essentially down to us and Harvard. That tells you a lot about him. He's very intelligent and very confident. Our local press loved him, because he always said what was on his mind. And for us, he was a great leader."
Dinwiddie surprised people when he declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, but he committed to his rehab in much the same way he committed to his NBA dreams. He hopes to be cleared for full-scale activity by August. And as one general manager told Sports Illustrated, "it's not as if he was super athletic [anyway]."
Perhaps not, but once his knee is sound again, Dinwiddie can offer a team looking for a second-round bargain a multi-faceted package of skills.
"He's a point guard by nature," Boyle said. "But what stands out about him is his ability to defend. That gets back to his intelligence level. A lot of guys are thinking about shooting and how many points they're going to score. Spencer knows how important defense is. To me, that's what makes him special."
In typical Dinwiddie fashion, he isn't the least bit shy about listing his NBA qualifications, and he does it better than any draft analyst could.
"With a 6-9 wingspan, and at 205 pounds, I'm long and strong enough to defend three positions," Dinwiddie said. "I shoot well enough to play the two or three, but I'm a natural playmaker, a guy who could lead the team from the one spot. I'm also a guy who you can say, 'hey, we need you to stop somebody.' And I've got size at a position that's uncommon. That size allows me to play other positions and makes me very versatile."
Boyle couldn't agree more.
"He's a big guard that can do everything," Boyle said. "People criticize his shooting, but he's a lot better shooter than people give him credit for being. An NBA team that drafts this kid is getting the complete package.
"Yes, it's a deep draft, and a good draft, and Spencer is coming off an ACL injury. But somebody is going to get a hell of a player at bargain prices."
Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
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