‘A Special Team’

College assistant offers unique insight into Pistons’ future

Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, along with Andre Drummond, look to be cornerstones of the Pistons' future.
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If you’re looking for an outsider with a unique insight into the Pistons’ future – or at least to the extent their future is tied to Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond – you’ll find it in an unlikely place: Hofstra assistant coach Patrick Sellers.

Sellers is a former assistant coach at UConn, where he recruited Monroe and Knight hard and knew Drummond since he was a Middletown, Conn., sixth grader. A recruiting scandal that centered on a former UConn manager named Josh Nochimson, whom Rip Hamilton would later sue for defrauding him, eventually forced Sellers to resign to spare UConn further issues with the NCAA, which explains how he wound up coaching in China before landing at Hofstra.

Sellers, recruiting for Hofstra at an AAU showcase in Las Vegas, told me this week by phone that he thinks the Pistons have a bright future. A big reason for that, he believes, is the way being around Monroe and Knight will help push and mold Drummond, a player Sellers describes as “a real quiet, gentle giant type of a guy.”

“He’s probably more of a follower than a leader at this point,” Sellers said of Drummond, “but with Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe, two guys I recruited at UConn and know real well, those are two really good guys for him to follow. In a couple of years, you’re going to have a special team. Those are three really good people, guys who are really willing to work. That can make for a pretty nice team in the future.”

Sellers played and later coached at Central Connecticut, where one of his players was J.R. Hargreaves. Hargreaves went on to become an AAU coach in Connecticut and it was Hargreaves who tipped off Sellers to an unusually large sixth-grader, Drummond.

“I’ve known him since he was 12 years old,” Sellers said. “He was coming to (UConn) games with his mom and his family. I’m like a part of their family now. I’m always encouraging him and trying to help him out.”

Sellers heard the chatter in the weeks leading to the June draft that labeled Drummond a high-risk, high-reward player.

“I don’t see it as a risk at all,” he said. “Andre is early in his career. He’s just so young. He’s just finding his way, growing into his body. But the guy can outrun most guards. He can jump. He has great hands – he can catch everything. He just needs to play basketball on a consistent basis every day and be around good people. I keep going back to Brandon and Greg. Brandon was the hardest-working guy I’ve ever seen in high school basketball. I’ve been in coaching for 13 years. I’ve never seen a guy work as hard. If he can follow a guy like Brandon, he’ll only get better.

“The other part is he’s a really good kid. If you have a good kid who’s talented, those guys develop because they really listen to everything you say. I think he’s going to be headed toward the Dwight Howard type of player as opposed to the Kwame Brown type.”

Sellers isn’t baffled by Drummond’s pedestrian numbers, about 10 points and 7.5 rebounds, as a UConn freshman. The personnel around him made for an odd fit, he said. Alex Oriakhi, a natural center, moved to power forward to make way for Drummond, but he had no floor-spacing shooter to keep the middle unclogged. Huskies guards dominated the ball. Jim Calhoun was in and out with health issues and a suspension. And Drummond’s late arrival – he didn’t decide to enroll at UConn until four days before classes began, scuttling plans to enroll at a New England prep school instead – robbed him of a freshman’s normal summer orientation with coaches and teammates.

“He was a guy who needed to get acclimated,” Sellers said. “That slowed him down, too.”

The nurturing Drummond needs to ease into the man’s world of the NBA, Sellers believes, will be amply provided by the Pistons. Former Pistons vice president Scott Perry, since departed for Orlando, spoke at length with Sellers prior to the draft.

“I told Scott that Andre, physically, is a freak of nature,” Sellers said. “He’s got all the tools to be a great player in the NBA. I’ve known (Pistons assistant general manager) George David and Scott and those guys for a long time. Those guys are going to do everything they can to nurture him and get him what he needs to grow up and grow into a man. I think they’re going to do a very good job. They’ll spoon feed him and not force it down his throat.”

Sellers also sees an on-court synergy for Drummond and Monroe.

“Greg is very, very skilled. At Georgetown, they played the Princeton offense. All those guys can pass, handle, step out a little bit and drive it. Greg can play like a four and Andre can really go in the post and be a back-to-the-basket center. Andre is a better passer than people think, too. I could see those two being a great one-two inside punch for Detroit.”