Sid Hartman: Aldrich is avoiding speculation on NBA

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2009 - 12:16 PM

The Kansas center wants to improve, though he would be a good fit and a local favorite for the Timberwolves.

That was Fred Hoiberg, assistant general manager of the Timberwolves, sitting in the third row of the Metrodome, no doubt keeping a keen eye on the great performance of Kansas' Cole Aldrich, a 6-11 center who scored 23 points (including eight dunks) in the Jayhawks' 84-74 victory over North Dakota State on Friday.

Rules prevent Hoiberg or any NBA officials from commenting about a future draft choice, but there is no doubt that if Aldrich turns pro, he could be the center the team has been seeking for a long time.

Basketball experts such as Bobby Knight have described Aldrich, who played at Bloomington Jefferson, as the best center in the country.

Aldrich, a sophomore, was asked if he might turn pro if he thought he might wind up with the Timberwolves, who have three No. 1 draft choices and certainly will choose in a favorable spot.

"No, I haven't thought about it at all," Aldrich said. "The one thing that I really just try to do is just get better as a player. There are numerous things, just for example after today -- I've got to move my feet a little better. There's going to be guards just as good as, if not better than, [NDSU's Ben] Woodside at the next level, and that's one thing that I want to prepare myself [for]. Whenever the time comes. Just to be successful.

"I have no idea. I'm just having fun."

The word among NBA scouts is that Aldrich will stay in school for another year.

"It's been fun. It's been a blast," he said, of his decision to play for Kansas.

"I couldn't ask for anything more. The whole town of Lawrence, it's a phenomenal town, we've got great people around. Our basketball family down here is the best anywhere. We've got guys from all around the country that just mesh into our system like they've been here for 10 years."

Bettr than expected

Asked if he was surprised by Aldrich's development, Kansas coach Bill Self said: "I didn't think he would be this good, this soon. We all thought he had great length and great touch and everything. And he's progressed at a remarkable rate. Certainly, he's one of the best big guys in our league; he's one of the best big guys in the country.

"We've got to do a better job of getting him touches, because he can deliver when he gets touches. I think he's a terrific young man and certainly has a chance to be one of the best big guys in the country next year."

Self said that Aldrich might be the best true center he has coached.

"Best collegiate player I've ever coached is Wayne Simien," Self said of the former KU All-America who now plays in Spain. "If [Simien] is classified as a big guy, I would say he's the best I've coached. But certainly, [Aldrich] is the best true center that I've worked with. Other than Big Country [Bryant Reeves of Oklahoma State] -- Big Country's a pretty good true center."

Does Self believe Aldrich will stay in school?

"I think he can be All-American, so, I guess everybody's got limits somewhere, but I don't know what his are yet because he's still improving each and every day," he said.

"I can't speak for his family; I don't think he'll come out though," Self said. "But I want him to do what is best for him. If he keeps improving at this rate, why settle for being a certain pick, when you can maybe be in the top five? But, who knows? I have a feel for it. But I've also told him, we're not going to even talk about it until the season is over. There is no pressure on him right now."

Yes, what a perfect fit Aldrich would be for the Timberwolves. A local kid finally becoming the center the Wolves have been looking for.

Jottings

Bill Lester of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission said April 16 is the date that the HKS Inc., a Dallas architectural firm, will unveil its design for a redeveloped Metrodome, including how it could be used for a new stadium, how much it would cost and how long construction would take.

"It will be a schematic design," Lester said. "You'll be able to see how it would handle basketball, how it would handle all these other sports."

HKS designed the new Dallas Cowboys stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium for the Indianapolis Colts.

Lester said it takes 2 1/2 weeks to put up and take down the stands for the basketball setup now being used by the NCAA. And even with that, closing the building from March 9-26, the Metrodome had 82 baseball games in March, some going until 4 a.m.

Mike Garrett, the former Southern California and Kansas City Chiefs running back who is now in his 16th year as the athletic director for Southern California, says he would like to continue the home-and-home football series with the Gophers on a continuing basis. How did the current series come about?

"One of our assistant athletic directors was calling around for a game, and we called Minnesota and they were very interested," Garrett said. "Not many schools want to play us."

On another subject, Garrett seems confident that Pete Carroll, a Vikings assistant from 1985 to 1989, will continue to coach the Trojans football team even though the pros are making him big offers all the time.

The past three Michigan State coaches were all in the Metrodome to watch the Spartans beat Robert Morris. They are Gus Ganakas, who now does radio broadcasts for the Spartans, Judd Heathcote and Tom Izzo, who succeeded Heathcote. Izzo and Dayton coach Brian Gregory were assistants at one time at Michigan State, and so was Indiana coach Tom Crean.

The Gophers men's hockey team entered this season with 32 NCAA tournament appearances, the most of any program in the nation. Michigan has 31 and Boston University 30.

Those two teams were guaranteed spots in this year's tournament, unlike the Gophers, who were waiting to see the results of games Saturday to see if Minnesota would qualify for its ninth NCAA tournament in a row.

Among WCHA teams, the Gophers' 32 appearances are nine more than second-place North Dakota's 23, although the Sioux are guaranteed to be in when the field is announced this morning. North Dakota also has the best all-time NCAA tournament winning percentage at .690 (40-18).

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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