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Celebrating Our Heritage: Kevin Duckworth page 3

continued During his seven-year Blazers' career, Duckworth was worth a great deal more to the Blazers than most fans realized. For one thing he set the best picks of any Blazer in memory (with the possible exception of Maurice Lucas). And he executed the pick-and-roll with Porter as effectively as Carl Malone did it with John Stockton.

"It's the little things that win games," said Blazer Coach Rick Adelman at the time. "Kevin does those little things very well. And you may not give him credit for it, but he is an exceptional shooter -- probably the third best spot-up shooter on those early '90s Blazer teams," Adelman said.

Kevin wasn't born with the golden touch-jumper. He got it through hours of practice in his own backyard in Dolton, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The son of blue-collar workers Edward and Maxine Duckworth, Kevin owes much of that practice time to his mom.

In the interview with writer Kerry Eggers, Kevin explained that his mother put up with his shooting regime outside her bedroom window at all hours of the night. Her patience, Kevin recalled, helped him become one of the best-shooting big men in the game.

"I'd be real late, and she'd be in bed, and I'd just shoot all night long. I had this thing about not liking the ball to hit the rim at all. If it wasn't all net, I didn't count it."

Duckworth was always the biggest kid on his block, in his school, in his town -- even bigger than most of his grade-school teachers.

In an interview with writer Eggers for his 1991 book, "Blazer Profiles," Duckworth said, "The size thing bothered me a lot. Girls would make fun of me. They were always talking crazy about me because I was so big. I never was skinny a day in my life -- not the day I was born. All the way since grade school, people told me I was too big to be playing (games with the other children)."

His weight has always been a sensitive subject with Duck. He weighed 330 pounds at one point in his college career at Eastern Illinois and was still a robust 300 when he arrived in Portland after the Blazers got him in a trade with San Antonio.

Despite his massive size, Kevin is well coordinated. When the Trail Blazers brain trust scouted him in college, the positive report came back, "This guy can fool a lot of people. He's big and looks slow at first glance, but he has really quick feet for a man his size and great soft hands. And he can shoot the ball from outside."

"I was never goofy or clumsy," Duckworth told Eggers. "I was big, but I could move around better than a lot of big guys I played against."

Kevin expected to be drafted by the Blazers in the first round (the 24th pick), but he was disappointed.

"They told me they would draft me," Duckworth recalled, "but they picked that tall overseas guy and my mouth dropped open."

That tall overseas guy, by the way, turned out to be 7-foot-4 Soviet star Arvysas Sabonis, who didn't become a Blazer until nine years later.

Duckworth was taken by San Antonio in the second round with the 33rd pick, but six months later, in December, the Blazers traded their No. 1 first round pick, Walter Berry, to San Antonio for Duckworth.

Kevin played only 14 games for San Antonio, but his trade to Portland proved not only to be a liberating experience for him, but also ranks as one of better trades in Portland franchise history.

As a 6-foot-4 ninth grader at Thornridge High School in Dolton, the same school that produced Quinn Buckner, Duckworth was cut from the school team. "I was crushed," he told Eggers. "It tore my heart out. I told my mom I didn't want to play basketball again."

But Kevin got over the hurt, played on the junior varsity as a sophomore and began to develop impressive credentials as a junior and senior, attracting the interest of such basketball powers as Georgetown and Villanova.

Duckworth did well at Eastern Illinois, averaging 19.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as a senior, while shooting a torrid 63.1 percent from the field (many of those mid-range jump shots).

His stock prior to the 1986 NBA draft was rising; indeed, one coaches' association poll voted him the most underrated player in the country. He finished his career at Eastern as the school's all-time leading rebounder.

Despite playing only seven seasons in Portland (he was traded to Washington for Harvey Grant in June of 1993), Duckworth remains 10th among all Blazers in history in points (7,188) rebounds (3,327) field goal attempts (2,001) and field goals made (1,492).

He played in two NBA all-star games (1989, 1991) -- one of only 13 Blazers to be selected to an NBA all-star team.

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