Understatement of the year: Shane Battier
has his head screwed on straight. The former Duke star is disarmingly witty, has an infectious smile, and always makes eye contact when answering questions.
Shane Battier was the poster boy of college basketball and now the biggest question mark in NBA Draft 2001. Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE Photos
Yet as much as one would like to credit Battier's demeanor to four years of college, his impressive intellect and wit lead to the belief that he would've been just as engaging and forthright at 18 or 19 as he is at 22. Although it's a safe bet to say Battier would never admit as much.
"This process (the media crush) is tough if you don't have a level of maturity and a level of self-confidence," Battier said at Tuesday's media availability. "It seems every minor flaw is magnified to a cataclysmic flaw."
When it comes to Battier, however, finding flaws, especially those of the "cataclysmic" variety, is a tall order. The 6-8 forward won nearly every major award -- including a national title -- during his senior year, was named the top collegiate defender three years in a row, and displayed a shooting range that extended opposing defenses into the stadium parking lot. Battier was even named the Verizon Academic Athlete of the Year.
Yet Battier finds himself in a curious position heading into Wednesday's NBA Draft 2001. This draft has been annointed the "year of the high-school baller" by most experts, as the potential exists for three of the top four picks to be precocious teens who have never set foot on a college court. This means that Battier, despite his impressive college resume, could fall to the middle of the lottery pack.
As expected, Battier takes this speculative talk in stride. If anything, he feels the gauntlet has been thrown down, and it's up to him to rise to the challenge of proving the naysayers wrong.
"If you believe you're the best person in the gym, you have to prove that," he said when asked about his approach to private workouts. "Every time I stepped out on the court, I wanted to prove that I was a little more athletic than they thought, a little smarter than they thought, and just a little better than they thought."
Battier's biggest wish is that he be judged on his abilities as a basketball player, not as a physical specimen.
NBA.com TV Special - Battier at the NBA Store:
"With so much stock put on testing, you almost sometimes forget you're talking about basketball here," said Battier. "More than anything else, I think I'm a good basketball player who knows the game."
Regardless of where he is selected Wednesday night, Battier is aware that his life is set to take a highly lucrative, and thereby slightly surreal, turn. So what was the first gift the budding star heaped upon himself? Eighty dollars worth of golf balls; and not even good ones at that.
"I bought a lot (of golf balls), because I'm not very good," quipped the humble linksman. "I'm not good enough to get the Tour Precision. Those are too high-quality for me. I get the rocks."
In fact, to Battier one of the biggest perks of his approaching financial freedom is no longer having to have a roommate, namely a certain member of the Chicago Bulls whom he lived with in college.
"I'm pretty confident and happy that I wouldn't have to live with (Elton Brand
) anymore. He won't make a mess of my room," said the Duke grad. "He used to steal my iron and my clothes."
Battier was also realistic when asked about his franchise of choice. The studied hoopster gave the stock answer of not caring which city he plays for next season. When pressed about whether he thought it was fair that his fellow college grads were allowed to choose employers, and thereby locations, upon the completion of their schooling, Battier's creativity sparkled.
"The way I look at is I will be employed by the NBA," said Battier. "It's just a matter of which branch they want to send me to."
A branch that is certain to find its productivity boosted upon the arrival of its newest model employee, for Shane Battier is set to enter the workplace.