Thursday, June 24, 2010

Big moment: Aldrich soaks up experience in NYC

Kansas University basketball players Cole Aldrich, left, and Xavier Henry got a true feel for the size of New York on Wednesday, as they were shuffled around from place to place to fulfill all of the commitments that go along with being an NBA Draft pick. Aldrich and Henry will learn their NBA fates tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Kansas University basketball players Cole Aldrich, left, and Xavier Henry got a true feel for the size of New York on Wednesday, as they were shuffled around from place to place to fulfill all of the commitments that go along with being an NBA Draft pick. Aldrich and Henry will learn their NBA fates tonight at Madison Square Garden.


Three Jayhawks waiting to be drafted tomorrow

Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry all await their NBA fate to be determined tomorrow during the draft.

— It didn’t take former Kansas University basketball standout Cole Aldrich long to realize the incredible situation he had gotten himself into on Wednesday.

Aldrich’s wow moment from the NBA Draft experience hit him like a bucket of ice water.

“It probably came when I woke up and I didn’t know where I was,” Aldrich said during a 30-minute session with reporters at the Westin Hotel in Times Square. “Then I looked out the window and thought, ‘Oh yeah, now I know where I am.’”

That place is the Big Apple, where, sometime after 6:30 tonight at Madison Square Garden, Aldrich and former KU teammates Xavier Henry and Sherron Collins will learn the location of the city they’ll wake up in a lot during the next few years.

For Aldrich, a humble guy from Bloomington, Minn., the last few days have been unlike any that came before them. Known in Lawrence as a fan favorite, one who would stay longer than most to sign autographs after games at Allen Fieldhouse, Aldrich’s tour of New York has taken things to a completely new level.

In addition to being in awe of the size of the city around him, Aldrich was on the go from about 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday. Today figures to be even crazier.

A late dinner, at a private room at Landmarc Restaurant in the Time Warner building, was the first time the former KU center saw his parents since a brief, two-minute rendezvous just before speaking to the media around noon.

Aldrich’s time was in such high demand Wednesday, he actually brought a box lunch with him to the media session and even then was unable to find time to eat it. This from a 6-foot-11, 245-pound guy on the verge of becoming a millionaire.

Aldrich’s day was set up by his agents at Excel Sports Management, a company that also represents former Jayhawks Paul Pierce and Mario Chalmers. His appearances included official NBA-type things like mandatory meetings and the media session as well as Jay-Z type things like a trip to the Sean John store just off Times Square, where he was pampered by everyone in the building.

While in the store, Aldrich — who agreed to let the Journal-World join his shopping excursion and hang out with him during his big day — was photographed hundreds of times and also was fitted for a new designer suit, though not the one he’ll wear to tonight’s draft.

So swanky was the experience that at one point, when Aldrich and his girlfriend, KU student Britt Claflin, were in the back picking out the suit’s particulars, a woman emerged from the suite and said, “Mr. Aldrich would like a cranberry juice.” Within seconds, a bartender chipped the ice, popped the top and served up a refreshing beverage.

Between stops, autograph seekers rushed Aldrich’s car as it came and went, an experience largely foreign for the big fella, considering none of the fans were wearing Jayhawk blue.

Despite the rapid pace of it all, Aldrich did not seem one bit bothered. In fact, he was so eager to meet and greet that he actually went out of his way to hug a guy whom he assumed to be Usher at the Sean John store. It wasn’t, but even that brought a smile to Aldrich’s face.

“I’m just really trying to take everything in,” he said. “Very few people ever get to experience this in their life so I’m just trying to enjoy the moment but also just be relaxed.”

Fittingly, that was easiest for him to do during an hour-long session at the Garden, where he and a dozen other likely lottery picks worked out on the floor of the famous arena and helped preach the importance of physical fitness to 100 children from the area who worked out with them.

“It feels great to give back to the kids,” Aldrich said. “Plus it lets us get away from the nerves for a little bit and have fun.”

Hearing that Aldrich was a little nervous came as no surprise for Claflin, who said she sensed something a little off about the former KU center at different points during the day Wednesday.

“I have never seen him act this nervous,” she said. “To everyone else he probably looked cool, calm and collected. I think I was the only one who could tell.”

For both Aldrich and Henry, the nervousness they experienced came more from the uncertainty of everything. Both said throughout the day that they truly did not care where they wound up, just as long as they were playing in the NBA when it was all over.

“I just want the draft to get started,” the 6-foot-6 Henry said. “I know it’s a little nerve-racking because you don’t know what team you’re going to or what’s going to happen, but I’m kind of to the point where I’m just ready to go get some workouts in, go to summer league and do stuff like that.”

Having a former teammate in tow throughout the process helped both players keep the nerves in check.

“Xavier and I have become good friends over the course of the last year,” Aldrich said. “It’s just fun to be around him and to have another familiar face, another guy, that I can share these moments with.”

Aldrich’s day was not unlike what the other 15 or so potential lottery picks went through on Wednesday. But it was much different from the life he’s known as one of the tallest men in Lawrence during the past few years and a far cry from his humble beginnings in Minnesota, where he grew up rooting for the Timberwolves. Now, he’s anxiously awaiting word on who he’ll root for next.

“When I first started playing ball (playing in the NBA) was a distant dream,” Aldrich said. “The dream then was to go to college and get a scholarship to play at a university. But once I went through my freshman year, when we made the run in the tournament and won it all, I kind of had it in the back of my mind that maybe this might be a reality someday.”

As the draft creeps closer and Aldrich takes a few more steps toward that “someday,” the reality of it all has been mind-blowing.

“(After the draft), I’ll know what I’m going to make for the next three years,” Aldrich said of the fat paycheck that soon will be deposited into his bank account. “That’s cool, but it’s also a weird thing because I’ve been going from scholarship check to scholarship check. I go buy food and then we want to go out to a nice dinner and it’s like, ‘Oh, geez.’ This is sort of the same thing but on a larger scale.”

Added Claflin: “Two and a half years ago, I probably would’ve laughed in your face if you would’ve told me that someday I’d be in New York at the draft.”


jaybate 3 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps Cole is Scotch, or Irish, and the plaid vest is a gang color. :-)

Scotch plaids identified clans, as well as being thought to provide camouflage in battle.

I've never seen a plaid forest, or meadow, but if it worked for William Wallace, who was one tough muthuh in a kilt, maybe this plaid will work for Cole in the L.

He's gonna need some colors in the L, because they are all very quickly going to try to find out what the pasty toe head can take. Is he an Alpha, or a Beta male?

I'm actually hoping Cole wears a plaid head band and plaid wrist bands. And if they break his pointy little nose again, I'm hoping 3M provides him with a plaid mask. It ought to guaranty him a cool $5M endorsement from 3M makers of Scotch tape in his home state of Minnesota!

Cole has always marched to the beat of a different drummer.

So did William Wallace.

March on, Cole, march on!!


Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

If Cole wears that vest to the Draft tonight, he may drop a couple of spots on sheer principle alone!!

Hey, oljhwk...good catch on the tooth. I think I was overwhelmed by the vest.

Just for reference, that is Rockefeller Center in the background.

If Xavier had had any guts, he would have worn a Red Sox cap. I guess he didn't want to show up tonight at Madison Square Garden with a black eye and a broken nose!!

I think it would be great if HCBS snuck in a quick wave and mouthed "Hi Mom", for the cameras.

Actually, Bill is becoming Mr.Media with the NCAA gig and now this...I love it. Talk about free exposure to every kid thinking about the NBA above the age of five!!!!

Not that I agree with it, but there is a buzz that Xavier will go first!!


dynamitehawk 3 years, 10 months ago

This thread has top-five potential. I just had a "that's not a moon...that's a space station!" moment when realizing that Oprah is in fact a destination. Good work.


keith horinek 3 years, 10 months ago

I see by the pic above, Cole got his tooth fixed! It looks great. Good luck tonight, guys, let's put three more jayhawks in the NBA!


William Blake 3 years, 10 months ago

X - Why didn't you slap that boy Cole? Wearing clothes from Hee-Haw in the Big Apple is nuts. I haven't seen a plaid vest like that since watching old reruns of Green Acres.


jcsmith 3 years, 10 months ago

Nothin has ever looked better on Cole than a Jayhawks jersey. Sure am gonna miss that.... But look forward to seein him in the NBA. Thx for the commitment Cole. Good luck in the League. Time to represent.


Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago


Actually, I was trying to use a parallel balance whereby the most desirable and least desirable concepts are coupled for a humorous effect......obviously, I failed!!

PS Yes, except for Heaven and Oprah, I've been to all the locales listed, although Allen Field House was pretty darn close to Heaven!!


Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, Jaybate...I just thought that Allen Fieldhouse was an obvious destination, just like Heaven and Oprah!!


Jonathan Allison 3 years, 10 months ago

I guess someone went a little too far in their criticism of Brady Morningstar and got their comment removed. Must've not had his coffee this morning.


Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

Quick...someone call the fashion police..Cole looks like a movie usher from the film, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"!! : )

Xavier looks like a high school kid on a field trip to "The Big Apple"!! :)

Having been to Manhattan a number of times, I recommend every American try to go at least once along with the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in DC, the Field of Dreams in Dyersville-Iowa, Bourbon Street, the St.Louis Arch, Pearl Harbor-Hawaii, Glacier Bay-Alaska, the Alamo, Sedona-AZ, Sante Fe-NM, the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyworld, Napa Valley and Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces, the Robie House, Fallingwater and the Guggenhiem Museum

For all our faults, this is truly a great country!!


JayDocMD 3 years, 10 months ago

Hopefully Cole was able to hide his pot of gold where no one in NY will find it.


KGphoto 3 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


azalum 3 years, 10 months ago

that dumb necklace is back!


tis4tim 3 years, 10 months ago

One of the guys in the above photo looks like he belongs in the Big Apple. One them doesn't. See if you can guess which one?

Good luck tonight, gentlemen! I'll be watching.


TimmytheJayhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of that plaid vest.


newtown 3 years, 10 months ago

WTF is that plaid thing all about ?????

Someone needs to tell the big guy to leave the kansas rags at home.


minnhawk84 3 years, 10 months ago

Wow, this old English teacher learned something this morning. Thanks blanketjaxon.

enormity This word is imprecisely used to mean 'great size,' as in it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of the continent, but the original and preferred meaning is 'extreme wickedness,' as in the enormity of the mass murders. To indicate enormous size, the words enormousness, immensity, vastness, hugeness, etc., are preferable.


blanketjaxon 3 years, 10 months ago

tait -- you should probably look up the word "enormity"


Commenting has been disabled for this item.