If you don't know who Pitt center DeJuan Blair is by now, you've probably been living near an oasis in the Sahara desert. The double-double machine was recently named Big East Co-Player of the Year (along with UConn telephone pole Hasheem Thabeet).
The Grizzly Blair is simply a monster in the paint, despite standing at a mere 6'7". He is one of college basketball's best players, and quite possibly most-liked as well with that heart-melting grin.
So what gives? The Pitt sophomore should probably be thinking NBA draft in a couple years, right?
Not on my watch.
Maybe you remember a shooting guard out of Duke by the name of J.J. Redick. The kid could shoot lights-out from anywhere on the court. He smashed numerous ACC records for scoring, free-throws, and also set the Duke school record for most points scored in a season.
Redick was taken 11th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. Never pay attention to him now? Probably. He's only started five games in the NBA since being drafted.
Averaging a minuscule five and a half per game for his career, it's safe to say that Redick hasn't exactly panned out in the Association.
He doesn't exactly sport terrible numbers, but they are nowhere near what the Magic expected when he was drafted.
How does a shooting guard compare with a power forward like Blair though?
Blair, like Redick, is an extraordinarily gifted college player who dominates every night. Although Blair doesn't make a living draining threes, his game is out-muscling players in the paint and grabbing rebounds.
We don't know how you would manage in the NBA, DeJuan. You have dominated players like UConn's Hasheem Thabeet (7'3"), Georgetown's Greg Monroe (6'11"), Notre Dame's Luke Harangody (6'9) and many others along the road.
As an NBA power forward, standing 6'7", would you be able to out-rebound and out-muscle guys like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, or Shaquille O'Neal?
Not very likely, but who would know for sure?
Now let me offer you a different idea, Mr. Blair. Some food for your thought, so to speak. Look to the National Football League, my friend.
Why the heck would a basketball super-phenom like Blair do that?
- Opportunity. The average NBA squad fields 15 guys. And if you aren't in the top seven or eight, you probably won't see a whole ton of court time. An NFL team fields 52 players, with the vast majority of those guys getting on the field in some way or another.
- Physicality. The Grizzly Blair's game is very physical. I'm not saying you go hardcore defensive lunatic. But how many defensive guys are going to want to deal with a 6'7", 270 lb. force of nature coming at them over the middle?
- Athleticism. As a basketball player, you are used to being on the floor for 27 minutes a game, playing on the move nearly all the time. In the NFL, teams have the ball on offense for around 30 minutes per game. Most players, with exception to the quarterback and offensive line, will not play that entire time.
With those factors stated, I'm going to throw something out there. The tight end position is calling. DeJuan, your biggest assets are strength and rebounding. How does that equate to football? Strength is a no-brainer. Make a catch, and you think you couldn't bulldoze a few defensive backs?
Rebounding is also fairly obvious. You are one of the best at it, because you leap up and take the ball at the highest point of elevation. What quarterback wouldn't salivate at the idea of being able to chuck the ball to some mundane height, only to have a 6'7" monster tight end come down with it?
But you haven't dabbled much in football. Neither did Antonio Gates. Sound familiar? He should. He's the All-World tight end for the San Diego Chargers.
Gates played basketball in college at Kent State, starting at power forward. Coincidence? Gates was also a First-Team All-MAC conference selection as a senior, and lead the Golden Flashes to an Elite Eight appearance.
Gates sported very Blair-like numbers in college. Let's compare.
GATES: 16.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.2 SPG
BLAIR: 15.6 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.5 SPG
The main difference here is rebounds. Blair has three inches on Gates, but the fact that Gates played for Kent State instead of Pitt may have a factor there.
Gates, who also considered the NBA, was signed as an undrafted free-agent in 2003. He arranged a workout for NFL scouts and majorly impressed with his size and athleticism.
The Chargers picked him up almost immediately.
Now if Blair wanted to go down the same road, I have no doubt he would impress equally as much with his combination of size, strength and athleticism.
So give it a twirl, DeJuan. Mull it over. Everyone knows you'd look damn good in a black and gold uniform, sporting No. 45.
Plus, who could seriously forget your imposing figure shadowing over the stage at the Steelers' Super Bowl victory parade? Or maybe the smile gave it away.