Monday, June 15, 2009

NBA Draft Note: Price Is Right

You must have been hit with the tranq gun and instantly gone to sleep on A.J. Price, an innate leader whose draft stock has dwindled since last year.

Don't peg Price with the same reputation-stinging ball as Marcus Williams, as many self-proclaimed NBA draft gurus or heavily opinionated bloggers may have already done.

Williams, as we recall, slipped to 22nd overall in a Screech-weak 2006 NBA draft. A wizard with the rock, his stock was weighed more on reputation than resume. Williams could pass the pigment out of the basketball, but the arrest under his belt altered the perception of his character.

Price suffered a near-fatal illness his freshman year at UConn.

And yes, he nearly frittered away a second chance on life with his role in the theft of labtops (Williams was his partner in crime) at UConn his sophomore year.

Mired in health and legal issues his first two seasons at UConn, the future looked grim for the player Jim Calhoun once traced as the best recruit the Huskies have ever reeled in.....


Price--born to a high-profile baller father and a supportive, peacock-proud mother and bred in Amityville, N.Y.--rebounded from a rough patch that could have taken him under the river or hurled him out to the wolves.

So, without further ado, let me voice my opinion...

A.J. Price deserves a spot on any NBA roster, be it a freefalling, downtrodden franchise or a formidable Western Conference foe.

And following a two-year ascension to stardom, one in which he emerged as the facilitator of UConn's souped-up offense, Price WILL get selected on the evening of June 28 at Madison Square Garden's WAMU Theater.

Why?

An unusual blend of leadership, perserverence, quiet we-first team wisdom, and unbridled energy (on both sides of the court) WILL pay dividends for any team.

Price is as composed as they come in the clutch, with a propensity to set the nets ablaze with his perimeter game.

Inconsistency is apparent in his game, but he can turn it at critical stretches of the game. He gets high off the ground with his release. If his shot's not falling, Price can put the ball on the deck and take it to the tin.

He's not the most athletic of players, albeit Price's high-arcing shot and ability score buckets by the bundles categorizes the combination guard with a crop of professionals.

At UConn Price never shied away from the Huskies media circus.

The beat writers stuck to him like gum.

Not because of Price's past controversy, but for his way with words and charisma. He is as coachable as any player in the country, a point Calhoun reiterated time and time again.


-Price was the catalyst throughout UConn's 2007-08 campaign.

-He rectified shooting woes at the beginning of this season, hiking up his field goal percentage and taking higher percentage shots.

-He emerged into an area code shooter his junior year, following a second-rate sophomore campaign in which he never found his touch from beyond the arc.

-His playmaking abilities, basketball IQ and penchant for creating shots for himself off the dribble had Calhoun heaping lavish praise on his point guard.

-Price can bury threes in transition and fuel headspinning runs.

-As he's done throughout his career, however, the adversity-slaying Price bounced back from this year's sluggish start.

-He hit up Marquette for 36 points on the full nine yards of timely treys, strong finishes at the rim, and transition layups. He also kicked in six dimes, and snared six boards.

-Price scored 33 points while handing out 10 dimes during the UConn/Syracuse 6-overtime marathon in the Big East tournament. The Huskies, of course, fell apart in the final overtime after coughing up several opportunities to close the door.


-The rail-slim 6-foot-2 guard responded to pressure during his topsy-turvey, rollercoaster ride at UConn.

The health issues, legal issues, and injuries slowed him down a step (Price's first-half injury contributed to UConn's first-round flameout in the 2008 NCAA tournament) but he became the backbone of a program widely recognized for producing NBA talent.