Kaniel Dickens: Learning On The Job

Although he didn’t begin playing organized basketball until he was a senior in high school, Kaniel Dickens has traveled the world since that time playing the game he has come to love.

While growing up in Denver, Colorado, Dickens would play basketball in summer camps, but had never played on an organized team until, at the age of 17, Antonio Adams pushed him to join his high school team before his senior year. With current Bobcats assistant coach John-Blair Bickerstaff as a teammate, that team went on to lose only one game all season and win the state championship.

Having quickly fallen in love with the game, Dickens decided to pursue playing basketball on the collegiate level. He first went to Barton Junior College and then Tyler Junior College before settling at Idaho University for two seasons. After averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 55 games at Idaho, Dickens was an early entry candidate for the 2000 NBA Draft, where he was selected by Utah in the second round with the 50th overall pick.

Instead of playing for the Jazz, Dickens headed to Russia for the 2000-01 season, the first of three trips he would eventually make overseas.

“I didn’t go to training camp (after I was drafted), I went to Russia and played over there,” said Dickens. “I was young and completely foreign to playing basketball overseas. It was a learning experience and a major adjustment, but I enjoyed myself and learned some things.”

He returned to the United States to play for Fayetteville and Mobile of the National Basketball Development League during the 2001-02 campaign, but headed back overseas the next year to play in China. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to develop his game as much as he liked while there.

“They just want you to score, so you don’t get a chance to work on your weaknesses,” said Dickens. “You just keep going to your strengths.”

In an effort to continue to improve as a player, Dickens turned to the Continental Basketball Association for the start of the 2003-04 season. He averaged 19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 29 games for the Dakota Wizards and his performance earned him his first trip to the NBA. Dickens appeared in three games for Portland during a 10-day contract before heading back overseas to play the final two months of the season and playoffs in Spain.

Now, the 6-8, 215-pound forward has received another opportunity to keep his NBA dream alive as a participant in the Charlotte Bobcats rookie/free agent camp.

“This is without a question a great opportunity,” said Dickens. “Any time you get a chance to play in front of somebody who can potentially hire you, it’s definitely an opportunity, especially in the NBA. I’m just trying to come out here and fit in and play well within the system and show that, no matter what, I can be somebody that can help a team, especially this team that’s new.”

Dickens has already caught the eye of Bobcats General Manager and Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

“He’s very skilled, can play multiple positions and I think the most important thing about Kaniel is that he remains consistent,” said Bickerstaff. “He can do a lot of things. We realize he can shoot the basketball and he has tremendous leaping ability. I think he just needs to continue to grow as a basketball player.”

Dickens believes his ability to adapt as a player can prove valuable for an expansion team looking to put its first roster together.

“I pride myself on being able to do just about anything,” said Dickens. “If the coach needs a rebounder, I can go do that. If he needs somebody to block shots and hit threes, I can do that. If he needs a slasher and somebody who puts more effort in on defense than scoring the ball, I can do that. It’s really kind of tailored to the coach I’m playing for.”

During rookie/free agent camp, Dickens is just trying to do the little things to make the coaches take notice. He hopes that effort will earn him a place on the team’s roster for Summer League games in Minnesota next week.

“I want to be on that roster (going to Minnesota next week). I want to be on the roster period,” said Dickens. “Even after that, there’s no contentment. I think things are going well here, the competition is really good. The guys are working hard, as should be expected in a situation like this. You’ve just got to stay within your limitations, but try to push yourself to those boundaries.”

Whether or not Dickens is able to make the Bobcats opening day roster in November, he will use this experience to continue to learn the game of basketball.

“I hope it does work out. If not, I’m just trying to learn as much as possible. That’s my mindset in these kind of situations now is to try and become a better basketball player before I leave no matter how long my stay is. That’s one thing I can control – how serious I take the drills, the questions I ask to pick up on new things and nuances of the game. I can just try to do my best and try to become a better player. I’m married to the game now. I’m in it to win.”

by Bo Hussey, BobcatsBasketball.com
Posted: July 2, 2004