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GOODEN LOOKS GOOD SO FAR

GOODEN LOOKS GOOD SO FAR

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When Jerry West, Memphis Grizzlies’ president of basketball operations, selected Drew Gooden, the 6’11’’ forward out of the University of Kansas with the 4th pick in the 2002 NBA draft lottery, many Memphis basketball fans had questions and puzzled looks on their faces. Why did the Grizzlies pick another forward? Don’t the Griz need a big man in the post? Who will the Grizzlies use to provide outside shooting, and three point shots? Moreover, the questions were not directed toward Mr. West’s basketball expertise, because everyone knows West drafted Ervin “Magic” Johnson, traded for Kobe Bryant’s draft rights from the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets for Vlade Divac, and is also credited in his ability to sign high profile free agents like Shaquille O’Neal, who we all know left Orlando Magic and went out, er, West to help redefine the Los Angeles Lakers' mystique. “We feel we’ve added a player who is going to give us some things that maybe we haven’t had in terms of being a total player,” said West with the smile of a champion during a Grizzlies press conference. “He’s going to give us a wonderful athlete, and someone that we’ve highly coveted.” And only weeks after Grizzlies rookie camps, and days after NBA summer league games, Drew Gooden is proving to be the player Grizzlies management, coaches, and fans felt he can become. “He can score points, he can put the ball on the floor, I think the fact that he played at a great program (Kansas) he knows the ball game,”said Sidney Lowe, Memphis Grizlies Head Coach while nodding his head with approval. “He knows what it takes to win and he’s committed to that.” When you look at Gooden’s statistics in summer league you see a very similar pattern in how he played in college. For example, in three seasons at Kansas Gooden averaged 15.6 ppg, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals per contest. During his summer league stint with the Grizzlies Gooden averaged 21.6 points, and 10.4 rebounds. per contest. These numbers were solid enough to land the former NCAA All-America notoriety in the form of being named to the 2002 All-Rocky Mountain Revue NBA Summer League Team. Although Gooden is pleased with his new job and accoladess he maintains summer league is just a sample of what is waiting for him this up and coming season. “I know this is nothing yet. Come season I think it’s going to be a lot more traveling, a lot more games, and practices,” says Gooden. “I think it’s going to be even more intense than it is right now.” Another aspect of the NBA summer camp and league experience Gooden is taking in is how some guys are fortunate enough to have contracts while others are playing with their fate bouncing with the basketball from the free throw line. Gooden compares NBA summer league with his days as a Jayhawk back at KU. “It’s more of going over plays and just trying to build a chemistry to play together. A lot of these guys are trying out for the team, so a lot of these guys are hungry trying to make the team, “ says Gooden. “It’s a different atmosphere than being at Kansas.” While let’s make a deal NBA style continues in the form of blockbuster trades, rebuilding, and working out young players around the league Grizzlies management continues to be impressed with the moves their making toward improving the team. And every time the name Gooden is articulated the Grizzlies know they drafted and signed a solid hoopster for years to come. “He’s one of those guys that from the weak side he’s going to come and block shots,” says West. “He’ll be one of the fastest guys on this team, or the fastest guy on this team,” West continues. “We feel he gives us something maybe we didn't have. Another really athletic person who is very talented.” When the Grizzlies drafted and signed Gooden several questions --about there possibly being too many forwards came out of the mouths of many Mid-South sports fans. As for Gooden he’s convinced his game can only help a young Grizzlies basketball club improve on what is being overhauled by management. “I feel I’m a guy who can contribute on the backboard and create some miss match problems at both forward positions spots, some with Pau [Gasol], Shane [Battier], and Stromile Swift,” says Gooden. “So as far as all of us being on the same court at the same time, that’s lethal.”

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