Sunday, June 21, 2009

DeJuan Blair: We Apparently Never Knew You

Today's Tribune-Review provides the most recent glowing report concerning DeJuan Blair's transformatory preparation for the NBA draft. Blair reportedly has shed 30-35 pounds and gained substantial muscle through fitness training and a sensible diet, reducing his body fat percentage from 16 to 9.7.

In other words, it appears Blair shortchanged his team and himself by being junk-food flabby on reconstructed knees for two Big East seasons. This conclusion would be congruent with other accounts from inside the Petersen Events Center, depicting a Panthers team not positioned for its highest achievement, a team run by the players as much as by the coaches, with players carousing until the wee hours of the morning the night before an NCAA tournament game.

I continue to root for DeJuan Blair. His mistakes in lurching toward a professional career are understandable for a 19-year-old without a solid framework of support. His contributions to Pitt were great and he is a pleasant, gifted young man. As the Propositions Board signals, I still like Sam Young better for NBA accomplishment -- the pre-draft data indicating that Young's height equals Blair's (6-5 and a shade) is disconcerting for an aspiring strong forward, better for a prospective slasher -- and continue to believe Blair's professional success may come on a football field.

Blair's most likely first-round destination, it has been reported, is Indiana . . . which was the second stop along Mel Bennett's professional journey. Blair plainly hopes to emulate Charles Barkley instead of Bennett, like Blair a City League product who left for the NBA after a brief Pitt career. Blair would have improved his chances had he road-tested his chiseled physique at Pitt before trying professional athletes. That he never had that opportunity reflects poorly on him and, perhaps more intensely, on the Pitt program.

The good news is that Blair appears to be working diligently and impressing professional evaluators, suggesting he may be gifted enough to overcome his missteps and perhaps follow the path established by another Pitt star, Billy Knight, who spent seven productive seasons in Indiana during an all-star career.

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