DeJuan Blair: Wikis

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DeJuan Blair
San Antonio Spurs  – No. 45
Power Forward
Born April 22, 1989 (1989-04-22) (age 20)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight 277 lb (126 kg)
High school Schenley High School
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
College Pittsburgh
Pro career 2009–present
Awards 2009 Big East Player of the Year (with Hasheem Thabeet)

2009 First Team All-American

DeJuan Lamont Blair (born April 22, 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an All-American professional basketball player who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Before turning pro Blair played forward and center for the University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team from 2007 to 2009.[1][2] After an outstanding sophomore (second) season he entered the 2009 NBA Draft where he was selected in the second round, 37th overall by the Spurs.

Contents

Early years

The oldest of four children (one of whom died in infancy), Blair grew up in Pittsburgh's Hill District, literally in the shadow of the university—his childhood home is a mere 600 yards (550 m) from the Pitt campus.[3] Although he was the smallest of his siblings at birth, he was the largest child in his class by the time he started school. Both of his parents played basketball at Schenley High School, which was located in North Oakland/Schenley Heights until 2007, and his uncle ran the nearby Ammons Recreation Center, where he learned to play the game.[3]

High school career

Blair played as a four year starter at Schenley High. While there he scored 1,563 career points and finished with an overall 103–16 team record, including a 57–0 record within the Pittsburgh City League. He was named the AP player of the state and made first team all state his junior and senior year. Blair led Schenley to the 2007 PIAA Class 4A state championship, the first state title for a City League team since 1978; in the final against Chester (and his future Pitt teammate Nasir Robinson), he had 18 points, 23 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots.[3] He was also named Pittsburgh City League Player of the year three times.

Blair's basketball accomplishments were not limited to school. He also played in the summer leagues at Pittsburgh's Kennard Park, known for their rugged competition. Blair remembered a championship game in which his team played against a team led by current Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was also a highly regarded basketball prospect: "They were taking bets — I got DeJuan, I got Terrelle. I had 56 that night. We won."[3]

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Recruiting

Blair was heavily recruited coming out of high school. Besides Pitt, other schools pursuing him included Florida, Kansas State, Indiana, Marquette, Miami, West Virginia, Wake Forest and Tennessee.

His parents admitted that if they had their way, Blair would have gone to Tennessee. They liked Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl, and thought it would be a good idea for their son to leave the city. Blair himself had problems making up his mind; while considering as many as 18 different scholarship offers, he was so confused that one day he threw his cell phone across a room, breaking it.[3]

However, neither Blair nor his parents were a match for his maternal grandmother Donna Saddler, who had played a major role in his upbringing. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon recognized Saddler's importance early in the recruiting process. On the first day he was allowed to contact Blair, he called Saddler, asking to come to her house. She told Dixon that they were having a family reunion at the house that day, and invited him to come, which he did. When Dixon was down to his last scholarship in the 2007 recruiting cycle, he called her, telling her that Blair would need to take the scholarship at that time. In the end, Saddler made the decision for him, telling him "Pitt is it." She liked Dixon and the proximity of her home to the school. Also, she was well aware that Pitt would be losing starting center Aaron Gray to graduation, which would have made Blair a likely candidate to start if he attended. He officially announced his decision to attend Pitt at the Ammons Recreation Center, where his basketball journey began, and became the first City League player to play for Pitt since Darelle Porter from 1987–1991.[3]

College career

2007–2008

As his grandmother anticipated, Blair became the starter during his freshman year. He played very well, making the All-American Freshman team, helping the Panthers win the Big East Conference tournament and securing a four seed in the NCAA tournament. The Panthers won their first round game against Oral Roberts but lost in the second round to fifth seed Michigan State.

2008–2009

In the 2008–2009 season Blair continued to excel. He was mentioned as a possible 1st team All-American candidate and was a large factor in Pittsburgh's season helping them become a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. The Panthers were 20–1 whenever Blair had a double-double, the sole loss was to Villanova in the elite eight. When he didn't have a double-double the Panthers were 6–4. At the time an unnamed scout from the Phoenix Suns predicted that if Blair developed a better mid-range shot his stock in the draft would skyrocket.[2]

Blair and University of Connecticut star Hasheem Thabeet shared co-Big East Player of the Year awards for the 2008–2009 season. He was a consensus First team All-American having been selected by the Associated Press, USBWA and The Sporting News. He also made the NABC's second team[4][5] and finished tied for second with Tyler Hansborough (2 votes each)[6] for the 2009 AP college basketball player of the year, an award which was won by the eventual 1st overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft Blake Griffin (66 votes). Blair declared his intentions to enter the 2009 NBA Draft on April 7, at the time he mentioned that he had not hired an agent.[7] However in a news conference the following day he announced he would be hiring an agent, forgoing any chance of returning to the school next year.[8]

Impact on the city of Pittsburgh

Blair is known not only for his basketball prowess, but also for his outsized personality. His grandmother said that as a boy, he "didn't want to hurt the other kids" while playing basketball. ESPN columnist Dana O'Neil wrote about him, "He is a people collector, attracting fans and friends as he walks through his neighborhood, across campus and on the court."[3] Blair is one of the most recognizable people in the city; his uncle Michael Smith, who taught him to play basketball, recently said,

You ride through here with him, you get tired of beeping the horn. Everybody likes him. I can't explain how much he means to people around here. I liked the other schools and coaches he was looking at, but what did they have that he couldn't get in his own backyard? I told him he had the chance to change the face of an entire city. I truly believe that he can and he will.[3]

After the 2008–09 season, Dixon will launch a program in which Pitt players will mentor children from the Hill District. He saw Blair's presence as a perfect opportunity to start the program — "We've been talking about doing it for a long time. But now is the perfect time. If we can't get it going with this guy, when can we?" For his own part, Blair has said, "Someone once said to me that I'm doing for the city of Pittsburgh what Barack [Obama] is doing for the United States. I didn't even know what to say. That's just crazy."[3]

Blair is the first NBA player to come out of the city since Danny Fortson in 1997, and the first with deep roots in the city—birth, city high school, and college—since Mel Bennett in the 1970s. (Fortson spent most of his youth in Altoona, Pennsylvania before moving to Pittsburgh during his high school career.)[3]

College statistics

College Statistics[9]
Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2007–08 Freshman Pittsburgh Panthers 37 37 26.0 .537 - .624 9.1 .9 1.7 1.1 11.6
2008–09 Sophomore Pittsburgh Panthers 35 35 27.3 .593 - .605 12.3 1.2 1.5 1.0 15.7

NBA

On June 25, 2009 Blair was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round with 37th overall pick. His stock fell because of questions surrounding his durability and knee surgeries. Blair signed with the Spurs within weeks of the draft on July 17.[10] Blair made his NBA debut in game 1 against the New Orleans Hornets, he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds[11] ranking second in ESPN's "Top 50" Rookie Ranking.[12]

On January 13, 2010 Blair became the only San Antonio Spurs rookie to record a 20-20 (at least 20 in any two statistical categories) since Tim Duncan. He finished with 28 points and 21 rebounds (10 were offensive rebounds) against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs prevailed in overtime 109-108.

References

  1. ^ [1] Profile on the University's athletic site
  2. ^ a b Gladysz, Mike (2-24), "As Blair Thrives, NBA dreams become a possibility", The Pitt News: 10–11, http://www.pittnews.com/sports/as_blair_continues_to_thrive%252C_nba_becomes_possible-1.1569324  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j O'Neil, Dana (2009-01-28). "Just a short walk from home, local boy Blair makes good with Panthers". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/story?columnist=oneil_dana&id=3865922. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  4. ^ "USBWA > All-America". United States Basketball Writers Association. http://www.sportswriters.net/usbwa/awards/allamerica/index.html. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  5. ^ "Sporting News 2008-09 College Basketball All-Americans". Sporting News. http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=526662. Retrieved 2009-03-17.  
  6. ^ "Oklahoma's Griffin is AP's player of the year". rivals.com. http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/news?slug=ap-applayeroftheyear&prov=ap&type=lgns. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
  7. ^ "Underclassmen tracker". rivals.com. http://collegebasketball.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=930947. Retrieved 2009-04-07.  
  8. ^ "Pitt's Blair declares for NBA draft". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/draft2009/news/story?id=4052755. Retrieved 2009-04-08.  
  9. ^ [2] Profile on ESPN.com
  10. ^ Fittipaldo, Ray (2009-07-17). "Blair, Spurs reach a deal". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09198/984532-142.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-17.  
  11. ^ Monroe, Mike (2009-10-29). "Spurs show off deep rotation in opener". Express News. http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/spurs/Spurs_show_off_deep_rotation_in_opener.html. Retrieved 2009-10-29.  
  12. ^ Thorpe, David (Oct. 2009). "2009-10 NBA Rookie Class: Top 50". ESPN. http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/players/rookies/rankings?season=2010&action=upsell&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fnba%2fplayers%2frookies%2frankings%3fseason%3d2010. Retrieved 2009-10-29.  
Preceded by
Scottie Reynolds
NCAA Basketball
Big East Rookie of the Year

2008
Succeeded by
Greg Monroe

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