June 25, 1997
Tony Battie is drawing a lot of attention and interest these days. Just
last week, the entire Celtics basketball brain trust went to
Philadelphia to see him work out. Philadelphia, Vancouver, Denver, and
possibly New Jersey all have made, or may make, the same visit.
of this is new - and expected. The recruiting process for Battie simply
came three years later than it did for others his age, so he's
unaccustomed to the clamor. But he knew it was coming; this time around,
he is in demand and a valued basketball entity.
is the Tim Duncan Alternative in tomorrow night's NBA draft. He's 6
feet 11 inches, still may be growing, has abundant athleticism, and will
not last long when the picking starts. He could go as high as No. 2.
Few believe he'll be around at No. 6 when the Celtics are scheduled to
make their second selection.
this past season, averaging 18.8 points - more than doubling his output
from the year before - and 11.8 rebounds for Texas Tech, helping the Red
Raiders to a 19-9 record. He broke his own school record for blocked
shots (71 in 28 games). He had big games against the better Big 12
teams, hitting Colorado with a 31-point, 17-rebound performance and then
lighting up Kansas for 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
Well before Battie declared for the draft, scouts already were
drooling. Larry Bird came away raving about the kid from Lubbock. Marty
Blake, head of the NBA's scouting service, said Battie could be an
instant starter for just about any lottery team.
All of this has been old news for some time. None of it was even
remotely possible or predictable three years ago when Battie, barely
recruited out of South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, made one college
visit and decided to go to Tech. He was a spindly, 6-7 small forward.
He was from the same alma mater as Dennis Rodman, but Battie remembers,
accurately, that it was Rodman's sisters, Debra and Kim, who were the
real hoop stars in high school.
His basketball resume to that point was three years long. Period.
was just a schoolboy," Battie said. "Then, my brother started playing
and I always hung with him so I started, too. I always wanted to do what
Derrick did; he's my big brother. There was so much competition between
us. Then, he got a scholarship to Temple and then I got a scholarship.
That was the beginning of Tony Battie."
also didn't hurt that he grew 4 inches while in Lubbock. The small
forward became a power forward/center and, more important, he did not
lose any significant coordination. David Robinson went through the same
thing in college.
"The first year he
showed up, he's already grown 2 inches to 6-9," said Texas Tech coach
James Dickey. "He grew another inch as a sophomore and another as a
junior. Before this season, I expected Tony to be here four years and to
develop into a good NBA player. But I think now that he is coming out
at the right time. He may not be physically ready, but he made the right
Battie's story gets new life tomorrow night, possibly in Boston. Yesterday, Celtics hoop el jefe Rick Pitino
listed Battie as one of three players the team likely will take with
the third choice (the others are Chauncey Billups and Keith Van Horn).
While Battie is not as developed as Billups, he has that magic code
"He's a tremendous athlete," Pitino
said. "He runs and jumps as well as anyone in this draft. He needs
physical development. He plays long, above the rim, and he's going to be
an excellent shot blocker and rebounder."
Hmmm. Sounds like he'd make a nice fit here. The Celtics need most of
what Battie has. Battie believes he has what the Celtics need.
"I'm a confident person," he said. "I learned that by working hard,
good things will come my way. I've improved every year since I started
playing. I'm bigger, stronger, and better than ever. But I also
understand that there's still a lot of work to do."
Mostly, the work has to be done on Battie's 230-pound frame. Pitino
mentioned that yesterday. Blake said the same thing. So did Dickey.
"He's got to add some bulk and some strength," Dickey said. Battie has
been working with a strength coach in Philadelphia, where he is sharing
an apartment with his brother. Derrick Battie played basketball in Italy
"He's got the weight,"
Battie said. "I've got the height. He's only 6-9, but he's got the
strength and the muscle. Looking at my brother's body, I know the weight
and strength are going to come. And my doctor has told me I haven't
stopped growing yet."
said he believes Battie's natural position is power forward, "but he
can play some center for us." Dickey believes Battie is a natural power
"For him to play center in the
NBA, he'd have to put on an awful lot of weight," Dickey said. "He's
quick and athletic, but the way he is now, those bigger guys would just
push him off the block. He played mostly with his back to the basket for
us. He's going to have to learn to play facing it."
believes Battie may be a year or two away from being an impact player,
mainly because of the need for weight training. The coach said yesterday
he wants instant contributors, but it would be hard to envision a
scenario in which Battie could not help the Celtics. His competition is
Pervis Ellison. If he goes to Philly, it's Scott Williams.
All of this has been fast and blurry for the 21-year-old Battie.
"Three years ago, I was 6-7. The rest is history," he said.