June 29, 2006
The morning after South Carolina forward Renaldo Balkman was drafted No. 20 in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft, USC Head Coach Dave Odom sat down with local reporters to talk about Balkman, his future with the Knicks and what's next for his Gamecock basketball team. Odom's phone has been ringing off the hook with congratulations, but he is yet to talk to Balkman. He expects they will catch up in the next day or so.
(media) Have you thought yet about how you will shuffle the roster with Balkman gone now?
(Odom) I did that about six weeks or so ago. Renaldo's departure will change next year's team. It presents different opportunities for different players. While Dominique Archie (redshirted in 2006) was more of a support starter before on next year's team, he now takes on more of a responsibility from the outset. It's a bigger mental challenge than a physical challenge. I am not sure where Renaldo would be drafted next year if he'd stay. He might not have been drafted as high next year, but he'd certainly be a better player.
We have a good nucleus of players coming back. Defiantly Brandon Wallace was playing his best basketball at the end of last year. Tre' Kelley was as good as any guard in the league. I'm excited about the possibilities of Dominique Archie. Dwayne Day and Bryce Sheldon are ready for more responsibility. Stephen McDowell becomes so much more important without a back-up point guard for Tre' Kelley. The others are just getting here (the newcomers). Brandon Wallace is bragging on Mitchell Carter (incoming freshman from Milwaukee). I look for us to be nothing less than a good basketball team, but today we celebrate Renaldo Balkman and his opportunity in the NBA.
How will Renaldo adjust to New York on a personal level?
I'm not worried about him in that area. He's been up there twice, being up there for a week for the NIT the past two years. I know it's not like a full season of the NBA in New York City, but he's played four games in that arena in the past two years and he's done well. He has as much experience as anyone in college in that arena. He's as prepared as any college to play there because of his NIT experience.
Renaldo Balkman is New York and the New York Knicks responsibility now. Still, I am where I am and who I am -- he knows I'll be available to help him in whatever way. Will he make an impact this year? An impact right now? I don't know because I don't know their roster, but I do know they finished close to last last year and they need some help. Is Renaldo Balkman the help they need? I am not sure, but it's hard to believe there is someone bigger, faster and who has more energy when's he at his best than Renaldo Balkman.
He didn't score more than 10 points a game last year because there were some games he didn't play well and he didn't get to finish the game. If you take those 4-5 games and he finishes those games like others, he might have averaged 13-14 points a game. But that's all been part of the process. It's all part of the learning process.
Are you surprised he was drafted No. 20?
I remember the first time I saw Renaldo Balkman. I was sitting in Orlando in a gym with (USC assistant coach) Barry Sanderson and I asked him `who is that kid with the dreadlocks? That's the guy we need'. He came back and said nobody knows his name. So that's my first impression, a guy that nobody knows whom three years later he's drafted No. 20 by the New York Knicks.
Are the critics too harsh on his selection?
He's a post player that handles the ball more like a small forward. He dribbles better than Dennis Rodman, but Rodman rebounds better and plays better defense.
I can't speak for New York fans. I do understand what they are saying. Renaldo Balkman must understand what they are saying. And I don't think he cares. He won't go up there with the idea that he will prove them wrong. He'll say he'll use this as an opportunity, like he did here with South Carolina's team, to make the Knicks better.
I did talk to Isiah Thomas a couple times. I knew the Knicks had two picks in the first round and I thought if they drafted him, he would be maybe No. 29. At the camp in Orlando Isiah was impressed with Renaldo's speed, his quickness, his energy, his passion. He wasn't making any promises they would draft Renaldo when we talked, but he said they would giving him serious consideration.
He was maybe the most popular Gamecock ever and who is to say that he won't go down as the most popular Knick ever when he finishes.
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