Drew Gooden played pick-up basketball with Michael Jordan and some other NBA greats at Jordan's camp for youths in July in Santa Barbara, Calif.
He played 1-on-1 against former Cal standout Shareef Abdur-Rahim, defeating the Atlanta Hawks' forward "40 percent of the time" in individual workouts back in June back in the Bay Area.
The NBA exposure does not necessarily mean Gooden, Kansas University's 6-10, 235-pound forward from Richmond, Calif., has the pros on his mind as he begins his junior season at KU.
"I'm not going to answer any questions about that until April 1st. When's the (NCAA) championship game?" Gooden said Wednesday, referring to season-long inquiries about perhaps bolting KU for the pros after three seasons.
"I don't want to think ahead. I've got a season to look forward to, and maybe another season to look forward to. So who knows? I'm going to take it a year at a time. When spring 2002 comes and if I think I'm ready to go ahead and step it up another level, I'll let you guys know."
One thing is for sure Gooden, who flirted with the idea of leaving after his sophomore season thoroughly enjoyed this summer's experiences against NBA talent, especially Jordan, who is planning a possible comeback at age 38.
"The first time he walked into the gym, I was refereeing the first day of camp and I was like, 'That's Michael Jordan. He just walked right past me,''' Gooden said. "I kept refereeing and he was like, 'Drew what's up?'
"I was like, 'He knows me. Mike knows me.' That's probably the shining moment of my life."
As the week progressed, the two became well-acquainted as teammates in pick-up action against the likes of Baron Davis, Andre Miller, Quentin Richardson, Darius Miles, plus many college players.
"I was like 'Broke Pippen' ... running the floor, getting rebounds, getting the outlet. I was doing little things," Gooden said, comparing himself to former Bulls running mate Scottie Pippen. "He (Jordan) started giving me the ball for the game point. I was playing well.
"I thought he was shooting too much and he thought I was shooting too much," Gooden added with a grin. "He told coach (Roy Williams), 'There are some things Drew needs to work on, like his jump shot and passing the ball a little more.'
"Coach said, 'That's funny. Drew said the same thing about you.'''
Of his games against Abdur-Rahim, Gooden said: "I worked out with him last year and he would beat me every time. This year 60-40. I think I've improved."
Gooden spent the summer pumping weights he this week bench pressed a team-leading 265 pounds and working on his game. He gave up a shot to try out for USA Basketball's World Championship for Young Men qualifying team.
"It's a great honor to play for the United States. I did it last year (on Young Men qualifying team)," Gooden said, noting he preferred a summer of working out on his own, not spending up to a month at training camp and in Japan.
"I had that experience. Hopefully the next team I'll be able to play for is the Dream Team."
Recently Gooden has taken four days off pick-up action and individual workouts while nursing a back bruise. But he says he's ready to get back on the court.
"I've worked on my shot a lot," said Gooden, who averaged 15.8 points last year on 51.6 percent shooting. "Before the season is a good time to work on free throws. My goal is to shoot 75 to 80 percent from the free throw line."
When he has played pick-up, he's been impressed with KU's newcomers Aaron Miles, Michael Lee, Keith Langford and Jeff Hawkins.
Leavenworth power forward Wayne Simien has been shooting on his own as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
"Wayne down low will help me and Nick (Collison) out," Gooden said. "Keith Langford (6-4 guard, Crowley, Texas) has really impressed me. He was not highly touted coming in. He was not an All-American (in high school), but really impressed me. He can play and is ready to play on this level.
"Aaron Miles (6-0, Portland, Ore.) is a great point guard. He's smart. Right now he does not have the experience. He got away with some stuff in high school ... he's finding out now he can't get away with those same mistakes in college. People are smarter.
"Michael Lee (6-2, Portland) is a strong shooter. He can shoot the ball and guard, drive, defend. Jeffrey Hawkins (5-10, Kansas City) can play, too. A lot of times local kids are not praised as much as us foreign, out-of-staters. But Jeffrey Hawkins can go."