Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hoop dreams

Walker Russell has a decision to make in the next few days that will impact his basketball career.
The former Jacksonville State guard has the enviable choice of going to NBA training camp in October with either the Detroit Pistons or New York Knicks. Both choices have their upsides, but Russell has to decide which opportunity fits his game plan best.
The Knicks are likely to have one spot open, but it’s not expected to go to a point guard. The Pistons have two spots, one of which could go to a point guard. He played with both teams in the Las Vegas Summer League the last two years, but the Pistons have been working him out since he returned from Europe.
"I’m in debate on which one I want to go to still," said Russell, in town earlier this week working out with the Gamecocks. "I’ve got to make up my mind before the weekend (is over). When I get back to Detroit, I’ve got to know if I’m going to go to Detroit or New York.
"My decision isn’t hard. It’s who’s going to give me the best opportunity. To me, the opportunity is greater in Detroit … but I’m not leaning one way or the other right now. I’m going to talk it over with my agent this weekend some more and we’re going to go from there."
So the NBA is out there for him, but he was "real hesitant" about talking about it the other day.
"Obviously, it’s a great opportunity," he said. "It’s always a great opportunity when you can be put in a position like that, but I don’t like talking about stuff like that. I think it’s a jinx. I just like to let my cards play out."
And he does have an ace in the hole. If he doesn’t make it with either NBA team, he’s got a sweet, six-figure deal to play in Germany. He played for the best team in the Czech Republic last year.
"I’ve got a chance to do my ultimate dream, but that’s not a bad thing to fall back on," he said.
He has connections with both teams. His godfather, Isiah Thomas, runs the Knicks; his father and uncle both played for the Pistons. But he wants to make it on his own merits.
"There were other teams that were very interested, but at the end of the day, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, so you’ve got to go with who you know," he said. "But it’s not like they came in and (said) since your Isiah’s godson or since your dad played for the Pistons we’re just automatically going to pick you up. I’ve got to still show that I can play.
"It’s all about timing. I guess last year wasn’t my time. I’m right there. My foot is like basically in the door. I’ve got one foot in, the other one’s right behind it … I’ve had guys who are solid say, ‘Walk, you’re good enough to play in this league.’"
Once Russell makes his decision, he will be the first JSU player to attend an NBA camp in the history of the league’s two-round draft.
The players on the current JSU roster welcomed him into their pick-up games when he walked into the gym.
"They know who he is," JSU coach Mike LaPlante said, "but from a credibility standpoint, he’s doing what they aspire to do. For those kids, it’s probably fun to be able to play against a guy who’s played over in Europe and who also has some NBA (experiences)."

No comments: