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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

The Big Ten has history (both recent and long term). Over the last five years, the Big Ten has sent four teams to the Final Four, tying the Big East for the most teams playing on the final weekend. It’s also one of only two conferences (Big East) to advance five different programs to the Final Four this decade. The Big Ten has accumulated a record 40 Final Four appearances, tying the ACC for the national lead. They were second in conference RPI and had the second most teams in the tourney field last season. On top of all that, the league once again led the nation in attendance for the 33rd consecutive year. So with all this strong tradition, what’s with the lack of representation this draft?

The answer lies in the 2010 draft where five Big Ten players are projected to be taken, including Ohio State’s Evan Turner being a top ten prospect. That number could grow if players like Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (the conference player of the year) or Durrell Summers, or perhaps Turner’s teammate William Buford decides to leave school early. It was simply a sophomore dominated conference last winter.nbadraft

The one guy from the main Midwestern conference who will hear his name called on draft night is B.J. Mullens. And he’s making a mistake. The highly-touted Ohio State freshman seven-footer declared for the NBA Draft after one year in Columbus in which he didn’t even hold the starting job (though he was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.) While he has the athleticism and potential to be a quality big man at the next level, he is nowhere near ready to contribute anytime soon and should get used to sitting on the bench even more often than he did this past season.

His skill set is still very raw and he would have been better served returning to the Buckeyes to further develop his game, become more physical, and learn how to dominate a game in the paint. A solid sophomore campaign likely would have secured his status as a sure-fire lottery pick in 2010. Instead, Mullens is projected to be drafted in the mid teens/early twenties later this month. When asked about who his game can be compared to Mullens said: “I don’t care myself to one certain person, I can pinpoint certain moves that I do. There are moves that Kevin Garnett does that I like a lot, moves that Dirk Nowitzki does that I like a lot, so I try to work on those moves and try to get them down a lot.”

This draft, the conference’s theme song could be U2’s “One.” I don’t agree with Mullens’ decision, and I think these lyrics from that ballad apply to his mistake. “Well it’s too late. Tonight to drag the past out into the light…One love. One blood. One life. You got to do what you should.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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 Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team The word “domination” doesn’t do justice to the level of damage Blake Griffin inflicted upon opposing teams this past season. The National Player of the Year averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game while shooting a ridiculous 65% from the field, most of those baskets coming on dunks, lay-ups, or putbacks since few defenders matched his combination of athleticism and strength underneath the basket.

Griffin is to double-doubles what Jay-z is to rhyming. He recorded at least ten points and ten boards in 30 of his 35 games played, (and you can discount the game against Texas when Griffin suffered a concussion and only played 11 minutes).

He’s built like a truck with shoulders wider than the gap between Paris Hilton’s ears, but he also possesses the athletic ability and explosiveness of the league’s top wing players. Those attributes are why he often draws comparisons to Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire.

At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago Griffin was asked who he models his game on, Amare was actually the first name to come up. “I really like how Amare Stoudemire came into the league and I feel like we were in the same position. He really liked to use his athleticism and dunk all the time and slowly he developed his jump shot. So hopefully, I can be in that category,” the future #1 overall pick said. Later, he would mention that Shaq was one of his favorites to watch, but also said he doesn’t see himself emulating Shaquille’s game.

Interesting that he mentioned his jump shot as his weakness because if there is any flaw to Griffin’s game, it’s shooting. Due to his dominance in the paint at Oklahoma, Griffin rarely had to step out and show off his limited jumper. Building consistency with his mid-range game will be an area the former Sooner must improve upon to become an All-Star caliber player at the next level. “A lot of people think all I do is dunk, all I do is make lay-ups, so hopefully I can show them that I’m more versatile than that, that I can score a little from outside that I can dribble a little bit and that I’m not a one-dimensional player,” the future Clipper said

After the interview sessions, Griffin and Los Angeles Clippers General Manager/Head Coach Mike Dunleavy were spotted hanging out in the bar/restaurant downstairs. So what does Griffin think about Dunleavy publicly saying he’s definitely going to draft Griffin first overall? “As possibly one of my next coaches, I believe him, but anything can happen, and that’s how I’m looking at it,” Griffin said.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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LaShonda Matlock, NBC Chicago Street Team

SEEING RED!
Anne Hathaway begged Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani to autograph her dress – after he accidentally spilt red wine all over the gown. The Devil Wears Prada star was at a private dinner for the 76-year-old fashion icon in New York on Tuesday (March 17th) night, which saw Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna turn out for the style mogul.

An eyewitness tells the New York Daily News, “Anne was covered in wine, but she laughed about it. She told him, ‘I want you to autograph this dress and sign it right now.'”

AND HERE COMES THE RIHANNA & CHRIS BROWN SEX TAPE…
We’ve already had the engagement rumors, wedding rumors, baby rumors, so at this point why not throw in a sex tape rumor?

Star Magazine claims that Chris Brown has a graphic video featuring him and Rihanna being very intimate in (how should I put this) “various ways”. Sources are saying that Rihanna is terribly afraid that Chris is going to leak the video if things continue on the current path and they eventually break up. The source went on to say, “Rihanna has no issues with her sexuality. But she’d be mortified if her friends and family found this out! This whole beating incident is terribly humiliating for her. She’s already traumatized and will do anything to make it all go away as quickly as possible.

CHICAGO GOSSIP:
Tom Brokaw, former “NBC Nightly News” anchor and NBC special correspondent, speaks at the Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. tonight at The Field Museum.

NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant will be sharing footwear designs with students today at Walsh Elementary. The star will also do a youth basketball clinic later this evening.

And if you want to know where the celebs like Kobe and others are partying tonight then click on my TWITTER account for all the latest scandal and gossip!

SIGHTINGS:
Actress Sandra Bullock stuck in 6pm rush hour traffic with her security detail on Michigan Avenue…. Billy Dec running from B-96 in Prudential Plaza next door to 103.5 KISS-FM for his second on-air appearance Thursday morning.

WEEKEND HOT SPOTS!
FRIDAY: Stay Lounge. The official after-party spot and best of all everyone is V.I.P.! Stay Lounge- 111 West Erie.
SATURDAY: Bon V hosts Image Magazine party and to get in free just mention IMAGE at the door! Bon V – 1100 W Randolph St

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team Before budding Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose came to the NBA, he owned Chicago prep courts during his career at Simeon. Along the way, he befriended St. Joseph product and current Illinois sophomore Demetri McCamey,  who leads the #19 Illini in scoring. McCamey a.k.a. “Cames” is also fifth in the Big Ten in assists at 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey leads the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). Earlier this season, Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber gave McCamey a Sports Illustrated article about the work habits and development of Rose, the 2008 #1 overall NBA Draft pick. demetri

“It talked about how he matured and some of the things he does before games and I took it to heart. It helped,” McCamey said. Cames mentioned how happy he was to see his friend Rose and how hard he wants to work being a “student of the game” to try and reach the league just like the Bulls’ point guard.

“That’s what all the great ones do, that’s how you get better- what Derrick said in the interview. The coaches gave him cards of what defense they play. They’re doing it in the pros and you gotta do it in college {in order} to get to the pros, so you just gotta keep working,” McCamey said.

Cames still has a LONG way to go to reach the NBA “Rose” garden: his shot selection is sometimes suspect, his work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. bulls_rose_300

“If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Coach Weber said.

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the NBC Street Team, the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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