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Article:Big East Battlers

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As I was watching the NBA draft this year, I too was wondering why Pitt power forward DeJuan Blair was falling so far. Being a citizen of the great basketball state of Connecticut, I had to watch as Blair would time after time dominate Thabeet with considerable ease. It was no contest most of the time, Blair has such a strong base, it didn't matter how tall he was, of how tall Thabeet was for that matter, he was going to do what he wanted to do. Granted, UConn made it farther in the tournament this year, but it's only because they were able to sidestep Pitt, who was upset by Villanova in a miracle ending.

Blair was co-Big East Player of the year, and he should have gotten more consideration for National Player of the Year, he was that good. He showed up in big games, and was a very high-percentage, double-double player. I don't understand why a guy like Elton Brand was so highly regarded when it came time for his draft night, and Blair, who is arguably a clone of Brand, fell to the middle of the second round. Blair's Achilles heel was his foul trouble, not uncommon for a guy his size who absolutely owns the paint when he's in. And don't tell me about his height, because we could go down the list of short power forwards who did just fine-Barkley, Brand, Paul Millsap, etc. Also, I don't want to hear about the ACL problem. Hines Ward has played like that during his NFL career, and he's an athlete who makes a living on speed, straining that exact part of his body game after game. Not to mention, Hines Ward is known for his blocks, so I guess his legs can take punishment as well. If a football player can do that with no repercussions, I give Blair a real good shot.

I have no problem with Thabeet going #2, he's such an impactful center that you would be a fool not to take a chance on potential. But when I watched the Memphis Grizzlies, who drafted Thabeet, skip over Blair time after time, I was stunned. They had a chance to put the two Big East Players of the Year on the same squad, two frontcourt pieces who could be great role players on any team, and Thabeet could be the most imposing defensive player coming into the NBA. Pair him with Blair, who is a rebounding machine (he's shown that in the Vegas summer league as well), that would add such unselfishness to a team that desperately needs it. He owns Thabeet, and they had a shot to team up and grow into quality NBA players together, which could have helped them both, having played against each other numerous times. But instead, I'll be watching the Spurs vs. Grizzlies one day and again, I'll be reminded just how much everyone doubted the double-double machine, DeJuan Blair.

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