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Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Woodling: Hinrich, like Harry, has bright future

June 24, 2003

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Those of you who would cubbyhole yourselves as both Harry Potter and Kansas University men's basketball fans must be wondering if the weekend release of the new Potter book was foreshadowing.

Did the arrival of "HP and the Order of the Phoenix" mean that Kirk Hinrich, often referred to as the Jayhawks' Harry Potter of the Hardwoods, will be selected by the Phoenix Suns in Thursday's NBA Draft?

No way, Hermione Granger.

Phoenix has the 17th pick, and if Hinrich's name hasn't been called by then, the 6-foot-3 guard with the tousled hair (but not the dark-rimmed glasses) will be as unhappy as he was when fans chanted "Harry Potter, Harry Potter" at him.

Hinrich, in fact, surely feels blessed the release of the new Potter book did not coincide with the college basketball season and thus fuel the resurrection of those chants he so much hated during his junior season when the Potter movie was released.

They say the new Potter book, by the way, is truly magnificent, which goes to show, I guess, you really can sometimes tell a book by its cover. Most of the time, though, you can't. Basketball players are the same way. Some look good in suits, but can't play. Others look bad in a uniform, but can play.

That's Hinrich. His cover is as dull as the Congressional Record, but he's a page-turner who'll keep you up until well after midnight.

As the days before the draft dwindle down to a precious few, Hinrich's stock is rising faster than the new Potter book leaves the shelves. Now some pundits are even speculating Hinrich will be drafted BEFORE T.J. Ford, the quicksilver Texas point guard who earned the bulk of last season's player-of-the-year awards while the best Hinrich could do was make first-team All-Big 12 Conference.

At least one pre-draft prognosticator thinks the Miami Heat will take Hinrich over Ford with the fifth selection. Ownthedraft.com speculates that Hinrich is a better defensive player than Ford and a better shooter -- not to mention five inches taller -- and that Pat Riley, the Heat's president and coach, will surprise most pundits and spurn Ford for Hinrich.

But Perry Allen, the Seattle Times' NBA writer, has reservations about Hinrich, saying the former KU guard must prove he is not "a product of the Jayhawks' system." Huh??? If that implies something in the Jayhawks' system precludes a player from becoming a successful NBA performer, then I suggest someone has mixed metaphors and confused Kansas with Duke.

Another Web site states that Hinrich is "like Jeff Hornacek, only better." Hornacek was a 6-foot-4 guard who started for more than a dozen years in the NBA even though he ran with an unorthodox gait and had a funky-looking jump shot.

More than likely, Hinrich will be selected somewhere between No. 8 and No. 10 Thursday, although the Chicago Bulls, who have the seventh pick, may have to re-explore their options with second-year guard Jay Williams' future clouded by that unfortunate motorcycle accident.

If the Bulls pass on Hinrich, the Milwaukee Bucks are a good bet to snap him up with the No. 8 pick, but if the dominoes aren't falling as expected, then Hinrich could go No. 9 to the New York Knicks or No. 10 to the Washington Wizards.

Given his druthers, I suspect Hinrich would prefer Milwaukee over either New York or Washington because he's just isn't a major-market kind of guy. Hinrich has always been ill at ease with the media and in public functions. Hinrich is one of those people who just wants to go out and play, a proverbial gym rat most comfortable in the environs where he is most skilled.

Still, when you're in the NBA, you can't duck all the spotlights. You can hope, though, to limit the wattage. Regardless, wherever Hinrich goes, he will have plenty of money to purchase sunglasses. Even if he is tapped as low as No. 10, he'll command a minimum of $1.5 million a year.

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