Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

Gooden good as gone? KU junior leaning toward NBA

February 23, 2002

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More and more, with each passing day, it looks as if Drew Gooden is headed to the NBA.

"This could, probably will, be my last year. We don't know yet, so I don't take anything for granted," Gooden, Kansas University's 6-foot-11 junior forward, said Friday.

He said he's savoring every moment at practice and in games because of the strong possibility he'll be in the NBA next year.

Just one home game remains  Wednesday's Senior Day battle against Kansas State, which follows Sunday's 3:05 p.m. game at Nebraska.

"It's gonna be real tough," Gooden said of the home finale. "After playing Iowa State I said, 'This could be my second-to-last game in the fieldhouse.' Before that, against Baylor, I said, 'This could be my third-to-last game in the fieldhouse.'

"I am cherishing every day in practice, going hard every game, playing as hard as I can, just enjoying it. You don't know what's going to happen."

Gooden won't join KU's six seniors in giving a speech at Senior Day. That honor is reserved only for seniors.

"Senior Day is something else. You give a speech, your parents are out there receiving roses. It'd be nice to do," Gooden said, asked if he'd like to have his own Senior Day in 2003. "Honestly, I'm not thinking about that now."

He realizes the KU fans will again chant, "One more year," on Wednesday night.

"I know everybody, all the fans want me to stay," Gooden said. "When it comes down to my decision, that's something else I'll look at. Right now I'm trying to play basketball."

He's trying to play basketball while fielding questions about the NBA nationally and locally.

"I say the same thing, every damn time  to ask me after the season is over," Gooden said of the NBA question. "It doesn't seem it gets through their heads."

Earlier Friday, before KU coach Roy Williams' weekly press conference, Gooden was a guest on 810 radio.

Guess what?

He was asked if he's headed to the NBA after this season.

"That's a tough question right now at this point, but chances are looking good," Gooden said. " Like I said, I have to sit down with my parents and coach at the end of the season and I'll come up with my decision then and then people will know."

Gooden is believed to be a certain top-five pick in the 2002 Draft. One scout said Gooden could go as high as No. 1 if a team wanted a power forward over a guard like Duke's Jason Williams.

Gooden, who averages 20.7 points and 11.2 rebounds heading into the Nebraska game, is likely to be named Big 12 Player of the Year in two weeks. He also is certain All-America pick and possible national player of the year.

"One of my preseason individual goals was to be (Big 12) Player of the Year and make first-team All-American," he said. "I think it's getting closer and closer to that every day. They are important as far as individual goals. My team goals are more important to me, winning the Big 12 Conference, the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. I'll take those three over player of the year honors any day."

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Short practices: In an attempt to keep his players fresher, Williams has cut practices by about 30 to 45 minutes per session this season.

"During a preseason conversation with Nick Collison, he talked about shortening practice, about fatigue and attention (span). He gave me three or four reasons," Williams said. "I brought it up in front of the whole team and said, 'All right, we're going to do this. It's Nick's idea. Nick for sure better play his tail off, but if we do this everybody better do this.' In the preseason, the first 10 practices on a consistent basis it was 12 to 35 minutes shorter."

Collison said recently he thought the Jayhawks' stamina had increased partly because of shorter practices.

"We do a lot of stretching. In the old days we'd jump rope three minutes and start practice," Williams said. "Now with fitness, conditioning and strength coaches we do 'new wave' stretching. We run up the court, stretch, skip, hop. It takes up a lot of time. If you take out time for stretching and shooting form (work) practices are really short," Williams added.

Why has he shortened practice?

"I have a lot of trust in this team," he said of the Jayhawks always being ready to play.

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Raef trade: Williams on ex-Jayhawk and NBA standout Raef LaFrentz being traded from Denver to first-place Dallas.

"Raef does want to play with a team that wins. I love that part of it," Williams said. "I think they (Mavericks) will see his competitiveness go up even another level. Having a chance to win is extremely important to him. He's on a better team. I think they'll find he will be very important to them. He really liked Denver. He liked a lot of things about Denver, but some parts were tough."

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More recruiting: Williams was in Los Angeles on Wednesday to watch Los Angeles Westchester meet Carson High in a prep playoff game. KU is recruiting Westchester's Trevor Ariza (6-foot-6 guard/forward) and Carson's Ekene Ibekwe (6-9 forward/center). Westchester won, 94-66.

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