The Balkman Dance is Your NBA Chance
Posted Jun 9 2006 9:22AM
2006 NBA Pre-Draft Camp
ORLANDO, Fla., June 9 -- Popeye Jones, who’s serving as an assistant coach this week at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, knows a thing or two about having a nickname. His real first name is Ronald.
Midway through the first game Thursday, after watching South Carolina’s Renaldo Balkman make play after athletic play, Jones turned to Nick Anderson, also acting as an assistant, and said, “That kid looks like Humpty.”
Jones wasn’t referring to the fictional character who sat on the wall and had a great fall. He was speaking of the lead singer of the early 90’s rap group, The Digital Underground, who scored a big hit with a song entitled “The Humpty Dance.”
For those not familiar with Balkman’s countenance, he has a rather large nose, much like the group’s lead singer. It’s safe to say there isn’t a great fall in Balkman’s future, rather a potential climb into the upper portion of the second round.
As one NBA personnel guy put it, “It seems like there’s two of him out there.” Balkman was everywhere in this particular game, snatching rebounds, leading the break, running the floor, blocking shots and finishing at the rim. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, as Team Four defeated Team One 94-78.
When Balkman put his name in the draft, most figured it was for advertising purposes and that he would return to South Carolina for his senior season. Based on how he’s performed so far this week, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Balkman doesn’t get drafted, should he decide to stay in the draft.
Iowa State’s Curtis Stinson added 13 points for Team Four. Also a junior, Stinson turned 23 in February, and will remain in the draft regardless of how his stock shapes up after this week. Though it’s doubtful he can work his way into the first round, Stinson has a decent shot to be drafted, given his ability to slide between guard positions. If he’s able to develop more consistency on his outside shot, Stinson could have a nice career in the NBA.
Louisville’s Taquan Dean scored 11 points for Team Four. Like Stinson, Dean doesn’t have a true NBA position, and is being considered for his ability to see time at both guard spots. Unlike Stinson, Dean has a beautiful stroke from the perimeter, which should enable him to make an NBA roster at some point in the near future. Various NBA rule changes are making it easier for smaller guards to survive in the NBA.
UCLA’s Jordan Farmar led Team One with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Surprisingly, he wasn’t credited with any assists, though it seemed like he had a bunch of those as well. Based on how he’s performed so far this week, Farmar clearly has solidified a spot in the first round. Some NBA personnel people have suggested he’s moved into the top 20, though it’s no cinch he’ll forego his final two seasons at UCLA.
During the evening session, after he went through additional physical testing, Farmar hung around to watch both games, one of which went to overtime. When he was reminded he’d be in Orlando at least until Monday, Farmar said he needed to get back to the UCLA library to catch up on school work. Though he said it somewhat in jest, Farmar enjoys college, and could opt for another year.
Team Six 103, Team Three 100 OT
Though they weren’t sure of the year – somewhere in the mid-90’s possibly – NBA Scouting Director Marty Blake and NBA VP Matt Winick, who runs the Pre-Draft Camp, vividly recalled the last time a game went to overtime at the Pre Draft Camp.
One team was down four points with only seconds to play. They scored to cut the lead to two. On the inbounds play, the player guarding the inbounds passer said “check.” The passer mistakenly handed him the ball, which he promptly put back in the basket to tie the game.
This particular game ran the risk of heading into a second overtime, which had everybody in attendance worried, seeing as how Game 1 of the NBA Finals was on tap for the evening. Rice’s Morris Almond took matters into his own hands, scoring seven points in the three-minute overtime session to give Team Six the victory.
Almond finished with 24 points, on 9-for-15 shooting. Another junior testing the waters, Almond raised his scoring average from 7.2 to 21.9 this past season. Given the depth in this year’s draft, he’d probably be better served returning to school. That said, Almond has excellent size (6-6, 215) for the two-guard position to go with a fairly polished set of offensive skills. He knows how to come off screens, catch and shoot. He’s able to create for himself in the halfcourt. His best basketball clearly lies ahead of him.
Oklahoma’s Taj Gray added 21 points for Team Six. Gray is clearly playing with a chip on his shoulder this week. Having seen his stock dip in recent months, Gray is reminding people what he brings to the table, namely great energy around the basket and the ability to get up an down the floor. It’s not a stretch so see him make the league as an energy guy, regardless of whether he gets drafted.
The same holds true for UNLV’s Louis Amundson, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Amundson is a terrific athlete with a great motor. He struggles mightily shooting the ball, but his ability to affect a game is something you really can’t teach. Amundson is also an excellent student and high character guy, which only increases his chances of making the league as a role player.
Connecticut’s Rashad Anderson led Team Three with 24 points, on 11-for 18 shooting. Anderson is like an appliance. Plug him in and watch him make shots. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do much else, which limits his chances of making the NBA at this stage in his career.
Team Five 80, Team Two 74
The real winner of this game was the officiating crew, in that when it was finally over, they could get some much needed rest. Both teams were whistled for a combined 64 fouls in a 40-minute game. Ugly hardly did this game justice.
It was the perfect setting for Cincinnati’s Eric Hicks to shine. He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a losing effort. As he showed in Portsmouth, there’s nothing pretty about the way Hicks plays. He relies on brute strength and tireless energy to make things happen. In his first game on Wednesday, Hicks seemed almost subdued, prompting one of the camp officials to remind him he needed to play like Eric Hicks.
He’s probably a longshot to be drafted at this point, but Hicks will have chances to play professionally either in the domestic minor leagues or overseas. With a little more polish and diversity to his game, he has a chance to play in the NBA someday.
Connecticut’s Denham Brown added 13 points, six rebounds and two steals for Team Two. His stat line was indicative of the type of player Brown is. Not overly proficient in one particular area, Brown does a little bit of everything, and should find a home in the NBA as a bench player.
Hartford’s Kenny Adeleke continued his strong play, finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds. Keydren Clark of St. Peter’s, the MVP in Portsmouth, had nine points and five rebounds for Team Five.
Clark has shown more of a willingness to distribute the ball this week, something that was lacking in Portsmouth. For some of these smaller guards who played on teams in which they were asked to do everything but carry the water jug, adjusting to the role of distributor is not an easy task. Clark has run the offense well, and is always a threat to score given his terrific stroke from the perimeter.