As the 76ers head coaching search drags on we thought it would be a good idea to turn our attention away from the ever expanding candidate list for a moment and start looking at the 2010 NBA Draft.  Right now, the Sixers are penciled in at the sixth spot and there are some very talented players available at that slot.  Are any of the prospects that will be available at No. 6 “franchise changers”?  That’s doubtful, but there are a number of college kids that will still be on the board at six who could help the 76ers  get this franchise turned around. 

We reviewed a number of the well respected “Draft Expert” projections and created a list of prospects from which the Sixers will likely pick a player on Draft Night 2010.  That Sixers projection list includes DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky), Cole Aldrich (Kansas), Wes Johnson (Syracuse) and Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest).  Now it would have been easy for us just to profile these college players via stats and analysis, but here at Philadunkia we go the extra mile for our readers.  Thus we worked the phones and got each of these potential future Sixers to give us a few minutes so that you could get to know them up close and personal.

First up in this series of interviews we have creatively titled “With the 6th pick…” , is Cole Aldrich, the 6-11, 260-pound center from Kansas who as a junior last season averaged 11.3 ppg. and 9.8 rpg. to go along with 3.5 blocks per night. 

Below is the exclusive Philadunkia.com interview with Cole Aldrich…

Philadunkia :  Tell me a little about life growing up in MN?

Aldrich :   You know, beforehand I was really a big bowler.  I was in a bowling league every Saturday morning, and my Grandpa was a big bowler, and that’s kind of how we got into it. My mom suggested playing basketball because, you know, I was taller than most of the other kids my age, so I just started playing basketball and about 5th grade it kind of took over bowling and everything else and I just pretty much started to focus on basketball.

Philadunkia :  Looking at some articles about you, it seems that the game really didn’t come easily to you at first.  What kept you going?

Aldrich :  I just had fun. That was probably the biggest thing, and what still keeps me going now is just going out there and playing, you know. I’m a competitive kid that always loves to win, but I was always want to be the best I can be at whatever I do, so just being bigger than everybody and knowing that I had some small talent and a lot of potential, I just kept working at it.

Philadunkia :  It seems like your parents played a huge role in teaching you about hard work and commitment. Tell me about how important they were to your development. 

Aldrich :   I think they had a huge impact, because both my parents were never the ones to push me into something that I didn’t ever want to do.  They said, “If you want to do it, we’ll pay for you to go do this or do that, so it was never them making me do stuff.  It was always me wanting to do all the things that I did.  Still today, you’ll see my mom and dad in the stands, and my mom’s yelling at the refs, “Cole, push him back!” and stuff like that, and they still now don’t know all the minute details about basketball, which makes it really fun.

Philadunkia :  Growing up did you model your game off of anyone in particular?

Aldrich :  I wouldn’t say there was anybody that I really modeled my game after, but growing up I was a Minnesota kid, you know KG was always around, and watching him play for the Timberwolves for many years, you know he was always the guy that I really loved watching because he had so much emotion on the court.  After each game you could tell that he left it all on the court, so I think just growing up watching him play for the Wolves was just really cool.

Philadunkia :  What was it like winning a national championship in your first year at KU?

Aldrich :  Oh, it was great.  It was probably the coolest experience I’ve ever had as a basketball player because you go through so much as a team with ups and downs.  I mean, we lost 3 of 5 at one point in time, andlosing three games in five games at the time seemed like the world was over.  We thought, “This is terrible, Coach Self is just riding us, he doesn’t like us and we don’t like him, and this is just bad.”  Finally, to go through all of that and then play North Carolina and beat them in the Final Four and then go into the championship game and playing Memphis, andthen being down 9 with 1:50 and to come back and Mario hitting the shot.  It was just an emotional roller-coaster, which made it even that much more special for us.

Philadunkia :  This past season, you were chosen as the Academic All-American of the Year in college basketball.  How hard is it to manage the demands of the classroom and the court and how gratifying is it to be known as more than just a great basketball player?

Aldrich :   It’s really tough.  People might always think that the teachers are giving them (athletes) special benefits and this or that, but really that’s not what happens. Really, teachers expect more out of us because we’re kind of in that limelight and they want to see us succeed as best as we can because we’re on the road so much during conference play and then the tournament hits and we’re missing class 2 or 3 days a week, which is really hard to continue to maintain that in the classroom.  It was really cool because it was something that me and my academic advisor Dr. Ward kind of had small dreams about a summer or so ago.  We just said, “Well, you know, it’s a possibility, so let’s try it, why not?  If it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen, but we’ll try our hardest to get it.”  I still remember, they brought me into the office and I’m thinking, “I probably made 3rd or maybe 2nd team.,” because there’s some smart college basketball players out there.  When they told me that I was the Academic All-American of the Year, I was really surprised, just really proud of myself.

Philadunkia :  At Kansas you won an NCAA title and a enough personal awards to fill your own trophy room, so how do you stay grounded?

Aldrich :  I think my friends and my parents.  Since I was young, my parents have really been people that have worked hard and just never taken anything for granted, and I think I learned that philosophy from a really young age.  Hard work pays off. My dad is a sheet metal worker and my mom does embroideries, so they have blue-collar jobs where they go to work every day and come home with a living, so I’ve just kind of taken that and brought it on to my basketball game.

Philadunkia :  We read those infamous words “potential and upside” with your name often.  How do you handle those terms?

Aldrich :  I can just tell everybody that I’m going to work as hard as I can work to be the best player I can be. Everybody has different potentials of what they’re good at and what they need to work on, but I’m just really going to work hard and just have fun and play the game that I love playing.

Philadunkia :  There are lots of young seven footers sitting on NBA benches.  Does that worry you?

Aldrich :   I’m not too worried about that. I’m really just going to come in and work as hard as I can, and hopefully I can get to a team that is a great fit for me and will give me an opportunity to play.  I think that not many big guys necessarily love playing defense, you know, and I’m kind of one of those guys that I’m going and blocking shots and getting rebounds.

Philadunkia :  Do you sneak a look at the NBA draft projection websites?

Aldrich :  Not really.  I hear things from different people, like this team is projecting me here or there, but I really don’t worry about that.  I just try to work on my game every day and just try to put myself in the best position.

Philadunkia :  What elements of your game are you working on?

Aldrich :  I think one thing that I learned from having Danny Manning here is the footwork.  You can never stop working on your footwork, and that’s one thing that makes good big guys into great big guys.  I’m working on my left hook and a lot of different things, a lot of different post moves and just working on my jumper outside.

Philadunkia :  Where are you working out?

Aldrich :  I’m just working out up at school right now with the guys and just working out on the court.  I’m just trying to have as much fun as I can before I leave tomorrow to go back home.

Philadunkia :  Did you get to watch the 76ers much in 2009-10?

Aldrich :  I tried to watch as much (NBA action) as I could.  I think Sunday was usually the best day for me, because the NBA is on most of the day.  The hard thing is that you have LA and Cleveland and the Celtics and all the main teams taking up all the air space.

Philadunkia :  Are you following the Sixers head coaching search? 

Aldrich :  I really haven’t followed it too hard.  I know there are quite a few teams that are going through the lottery here that might not have a coach right now, and who knows how long it will take to get a coach.  That’s kind of the fun thing about the draft coming up is that with so many teams that don’t quite have a head coach, but you also want to come into a situation where you feel comfortable and just get that opportunity to play.

Philadunkia :  The Sixers were on of the worst rebounding teams in the League last season and you are considered by NBA scouts to be a very good rebounder.  What do you feel are some of the keys to being a great rebounder?

Aldrich :  I kind of just try to watch the ball and try to think of where it’s going to come off and then really it’s just coming down to who wants it the most.  I try to rip the ball from everybody else.  I have long arms so that helps me get a fingertip and if I’m not able to grab it I can tip it to myself and grab it, so that’s one thing that helps me a little bit.

Philadunkia :  If the Sixers draft Cole Aldrich what type of player are they getting?

Aldrich :  A guy that just really works hard.  A guy that loves playing the game of basketball, but also a guy that’s not going to be a distraction off the court because I know that’s a huge deal right now in the NBA, trying to clean up the image, and I think I’m a great locker room guy, and a fun-loving, maybe a little bit goofy, type of guy who just loves to have fun.

Philadunkia :  Have you ever been to Philadelphia?

Aldrich : Playing Temple was my first time ever (going to Philly). We played Temple this year (January 2nd, 2010), and you know it was a little chilly, kind of like being at home.  We waited on the plane for so long because the twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) are from Philly and they had some place with the best Philly cheesesteaks in all of Philadelphia, so we were excited but they (the cheesesteaks) never came.  But if I come back to Philly I will have to try theirs (cheesesteaks).

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