The “Miracle on Lottery Night” as we like to call it significantly improved the 76ers position in the 2010 NBA Draft, so we excitedly had to change the title of our draft prospect preview series (formerly “With the 6th pick…”) and start looking at a whole different list of college kids.
We again reviewed a number of the well respected “Draft Expert” projections, this time with a giddy focus on the #2 spot and then created a list of prospects from which the Sixers will likely pick a player on Draft Night 2010. That Sixers projection list includes heavy favorite Evan Turner (Ohio St.), big man DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky) and forward Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech). However there are also a couple “experts” who are predicting that the Sixers will make a trade on Draft night that includes the #2 pick and a player or two from the current roster. So do not be surprised if the Sixers do something unusual on June 24th.
Now it would have been easy for us to profile the college players “experts” are saying will end up in a Sixers uniform simply via stats and analysis, but here at Philadunkia we go the extra mile for our readers. Thus we worked the phones and asked several 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 our retooled series of draft prospect interviews now titled “With the 2nd pick…” is 7-foot, 227 pound shot blocking machine Hassan Whiteside of Marshall.
Now many of you may think that Whiteside is a surprising choice of prospects to interview considering he is projected as a mid-to-late first round selection in numerous mock drafts and at first glance you would be correct. However, with all the trade rumors out there regarding the Sixers and the 2nd pick, we thought it wise to present interviews with a couple prospects outside of Turner, Cousins and Favors. In the scenarios where the Sixers “trade down” to acquire a veteran player, one of the names we keep hearing the Sixers would then take in the mid-first-round on Draft night 2010 is Whiteside. So we reached out to Hassan, got him on the phone and this what he had to say…
Philadunkia : Tell me a little about life growing up in NC?
Whiteside : I had a single mom, 5 brothers, a little sister. I looked up to them (my brothers) with basketball and help and guidance. They always kept me out of trouble
Philadunkia : Your Dad is former NFL player Hasson Arbubakrr (Vikings), correct?
Whiteside : Yes
Philadunkia : Did you play football as a kid?
Whiteside : Yeah, I played a little bit my sophomore year. I was mostly wrestling and stuff, I wrestled a lot my eighth and ninth grade year.
Philadunkia : Who taught you the game of basketball?
Whiteside : Just really my brothers. Just watching them play, ever since I was about five years old. We had a little court in the backyard, so I used to play on that.
Philadunkia : Growing up did you model your game off of anyone in particular?
Whiteside : Probably Kevin Garnett. I like Amare (Stoudemire)…I really like that guy
Philadunkia : Who is your basketball idol?
Whiteside : Probably Garnett. I like Garnett a lot.
Philadunkia : You attended 3 High Schools — Hope Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.); East Side High School in Newark, N.J; Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C. Talk to us about the experience of changing schools so often.
Whiteside : I really met a lot of people changing schools. I looked at the bright side of things- it was an opportunity to meet a lot of people. Instead of thinking about losing a lot of friends, you know, as a negative
Philadunkia : You led Patterson (NC) to a 34-2 record and a No. 1 national ranking. What was that season like?
Whiteside : It was a really good team, man, Coach (Chris) Chaney has coached a lot of NBA players. I learned how to run the floor better and play up-tempo. It was just fun because we always won, like we really never lost. We beat teams by 50 and stuff; I had triple doubles and stuff. (It was) just crazy.
Philadunkia : You grew 5 inches during your junior year (2008-09). Talk about that experience.
Whiteside : Yeah, they (coaches) had to really show me how to post up, because I was used to being a guard, so I was used to being on the perimeter more. They really had to teach me how to post up and play with my back towards the basket.
Philadunkia : What made you choose Marshall?
Whiteside : I knew at Marshall, they would really take the time, really try to develop me better, just because I knew there would be more focus on making me better as a person, so I really wanted to go up there and change the program, and really set history. I already knew the coaches were going to work with me, and they had a lot of experience.
Philadunkia : You had a 14 point, 17 rebound, 9 block performance in just 29 minutes against Ohio and 20, 12 & 8 vs. Tulane; as well as 20, 14 & 6 vs. UTEP. What’s it like when you are in the zone like that?
Whiteside : When everything’s flowing, just dominating a game even when you’re not getting the ball. I was just trying to dominate and affect the game either with rebounding, defense, or points. There aren’t that many shot blockers, so I guess I get the most credit for that. I just try to do what it takes to win
Philadunkia : You had 5 double-doubles and averaged 13, 9 and 5 blocks a night this season. How do you evaluate the season you had this year?
Whiteside : It was pretty good, I thought I had a good season. I knew I was a really good shot blocker coming in. I told my mom I was going to be top 5 in the country, but I didn’t know I was going to lead the country. I didn’t really know what to expect, I just came in and tried to just lead our team and try to take them as far as they can go, so sounds like a pretty good season to me.
Philadunkia : You were selected as the Conference USA Defensive POY and Freshman of the Year. Talk about those honors
Whiteside : It really means a lot to me. They really mean the effort I put into the game and the hard work, so I really think it’s an honor. Conference USA, they’ve had a lot of good freshmen, like Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose the last two seasons in the conference. Conference USA usually has some good players, so me being a part of that with Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, just being in the freshman of the year category in that conference really means a lot.
Philadunkia : With all of the accolades you have received recently, how do you stay grounded?
Whiteside : Just knowing it’s not over. I had a good season, but just move on to the next level, try to get awards there and accolades at the next level. Just knowing my career’s not over, this is just another step into it.
Philadunkia : In one season at Marshall you became the Herd’s career leader in blocks. Obviously you are a 7-foot big and have a long wingspan, but what else makes you so good at the art of the rejection?
Whiteside : It’s really common, when you’re tall it gives you more room for mistakes when you have a high wingspan, but it’s really just staying out of foul trouble and stuff. It’s just natural. Shot blocking’s not something you think about, it’s just natural.
Philadunkia : Because you are an underclassmen with only one year of college ball under your belt, we hear those infamous words “potential and upside” associated with your name often. How do you handle those terms?
Whiteside : They’re really just saying that I have potential and upside and stuff. Ain’t really nothing changed on what it says on the computer for me, I just believed in myself even before I was on the mock drafts. Really, nothing has changed, I’m just going to keep doing what got me here.
Philadunkia : There are lots of young bigs sitting on NBA benches while they “develop”. Does that worry you?
Whiteside : No. If I was worried about sitting on the bench, I probably wouldn’t even play basketball. As far as when I came into college, I didn’t know whether I was ready for college or not, just come in and try, man, just try. I haven’t ever played in the NBA, so I can’t tell you whether I’m ready or not, so I’ll just play it like the way I played in college.
Philadunkia : What people in your life will be involved in that final decision to stay in the draft?
Whiteside : My mom. I already know I’m staying in the draft. The main reason I didn’t go back is because all the coaches left.
Philadunkia : Do you sneak a look a NBA draft prediction websites?
Whiteside : Somebody sent it to me, but that stuff, it’s mostly never right, it’s just what they say, what people have got. Like, you look at the mock drafts in the past, it isn’t too often that they get the numbers right
Philadunkia : What elements of your game are you working on?
Whiteside : Really just strength, ball-handling, explosiveness, just everything, man. I didn’t shoot 100% from the field, I’m not the best dribbler in the world, I’m not the best shot blocker in the world, I’m not the best dunker in the world, so why not improve on everything?
Philadunkia : Where are you working out?
Whiteside : I’m going to work out all over the place. I’m out here in San Francisco right now.**
** Philadunkia Note : Whiteside is in San Francisco, California working out with legendary trainer Frank Matrisciano a.k.a. “Crazy Frank”. Among the numerous professional athletes who have trained and or currently train under Matrisciano is Blake Griffin, the #1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Matrisciano and his brutal beach workouts were featured last year on ESPN.com’s original video series “The Rookie: Blake Griffin”. We’ve known Matrisciano as well as his trusty sidekick — a white-and-gray husky, named Seminole — for years and those “chameleon” workouts of his are killer, so we’d like to wish Hassan the best of luck in surviving his time in the Bay Area.