I stand before you a weary man. I’m tired of hearing that Al Horford isn’t a center (because he is) and that the Hawks won’t amount to anything until they find a center. But being my dogged self, I wasn’t willing to sit idly by as the conversation raged on the ol’ blog. I actually went out — at the prodding of reader JSS, who put a bug in my tin ear — and found the Hawks a center.
Actually, Rick Sund and his crew beat me to it. They had Garret Siler of Augusta (Ga.) State in for a workout last week. But I’m not just giving him a look. I’m saying: Take him in Round 2! Make him the draft’s 49th pick! And then hire Tree Rollins, who helped groom Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando, as a special assistant and let him spend two years tutoring the big man.
Garret Siler is, as we say in the trade, a great story. He attended a fine arts school — he was a singer and played in the band — until moving to Richmond Academy as a senior. That’s where Dip Metress, the coach of Augusta State, saw him, and there was a lot to see. Siler was 7-foot, 370 pounds. And, according to Metress, he “scored less than 50 points” that entire season.
Siler was, in sum, raw. When he arrived at ASU, he could, Metress says, do two things: “Catch the ball — he’s got great hands — and make a layup.” Everything else was a mystery. Metress again: “He hadn’t ever played [until that senior year of high school]. It was like I was his middle school coach.”
Siler redshirted his first year at ASU. As a freshman he averaged 5.3 points and 2.3 rebounds. As a fifth-year senior, he averaged 16.2 and 7.7 and led the Jaguars to a 30-5 season and NCAA Division II semifinals. “It’s indescribable how far he’s come,” Metress says. And then: “Every month he’d do something he couldn’t do the month before.”
The big man is still raw — he fouled out of 25 college games — but no longer as big. He’s down to 278 pounds — “He’s lost almost a human being,” Metress says — and that reflects a steep recent decline. Siler weighed 298 when he made all-tournament at the Portsmouth Invitational, a postseason camp for NBA hopefuls. (Metress: “I tell people that Jerry West logo [the official NBA brand] is greater motivation to lose weight than any coach.”)
Siler averaged 16 points and eight rebounds at Portsmouth, catching more than a few eyes. Metress says the Miami Heat, which has the 60th and final pick in Thursday’s draft, has flown Siler down twice for workouts. “If you’re going to take a risk,” Metress says, “you take it on size. He’s not going to shrink … If you’re willing to work with him, he’s got so much upside … And he’s a true low-post player. He doesn’t try to be a guard or a forward.”
At No. 49 there are no sure things, only varying shades of gambles. Garret Siler would be a massive gamble, literally and figuratively. But better him in Round 2 than Priest Lauderdale, who hadn’t a prayer, in Round 1.
And what, you’re asking ever happened to the 7-foot-4 Lauderdale, who was the Hawks No. 1 pick (28th overall) in 1996? He wound up playing basketball in Bulgaria and became, according to the Sofia Echo, the tallest Bulgarian citizen. And now you know … the rest of the story.
For your viewing pleasure: Here’s a clip from Chris Kane of Augusta’s WJBF-TV of Garret Siler after his return from the Portsmouth Invitational.