Monday, June 20, 2011

Cream 'n Crimson Good -- Cheaney Brings An Edge

Yeah, it’s about the show. That’s the way it is these college basketball days. Guys want to get to the show, the NBA. They want the money and fame and glitz.

They want to be the next Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose or Dwyane Wade.

That’s human nature. Guys put in as much time as they have to these days in college -- and it’s basically seven days a week for years -- because they want NBA opportunity. Not all will get it. That’s part of life.

But Calbert Cheaney can show them how to get there. Do not under-estimate that importance, both in Hoosier recruiting and player development.

Players will play for Hoosier glory. Tom Crean won’t put up with individual selfishness. It’s team first, sacrificing for the common good. With that sacrifice will come winning and accolades and, if a player is good enough, professional opportunity.

Again, Cheaney will be huge in that. He played 13 seasons in the NBA. He made $30 million during his career, with a high of $4 million in 1999. He has a gorgeous wife (Yvette), gorgeous kids (Julian and Sydney) and a winning smile. He lived the dream -- without turning into a prima donna. He seems too nice to be true and in oh so many ways, he is.

But don’t forget this -- Cheaney is also a basketball killer. You don’t become the college player of the year, as he was in 1993 under demanding coach Bob Knight, by turning the other cheek.

“He’s a guy who is very talented,” Crean said “but he’s always worked very hard to go above and beyond what people thought he’d be. He’s got a very energized attitude with an edge to him. When he’s spoken to our guys, there’s an edge there. You have to have that. You have to have an attitude about you.”

Cheaney talks about the importance of will and determination. He stresses that practice is a place where “all the blood, sweat and tears start,” and that games should be “easy.”

That, in the end, determines whether a player will make it in the NBA. Yes, you have to have the talent, but a lot of guys do coming out of college. Some make it. Some don’t. Some star for a decade or more. Some fade away after a year or two.

The key is work ethic and desire. It’s having that confidence and drive to maximize your talent and, at times, push a little bit more.

That was Calbert Cheaney as a player. If it’s also Calbert Cheaney as a coach, look out.

Several years ago I wrote a book on IU basketball called “Hoop Tales – Indiana Hoosiers Men’s Basketball.” It had a chapter on Cheaney (called “A Humble Hero”) where he talked about wanting to be a college coach someday, that he loved teaching kids and had a lot to offer.

LIFE-CHANGING OPPORTUNITY: There’s an ad on this blog where you can buy hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of the book to enrich your life and those you love and maybe even prevent global warming. Is this a shameless plug? Of course. We have a daughter in college and a son set to join her and a dog to feed and mulch to buy and …


Anyway, Cheaney talked on Monday about his love for coaching and that he wouldn’t mind working at the college level or the NBA or high school or even middle school. He said, when he left IU back in 1993, that he never envisioned returning as part of the coaching staff.

“I thought that I might some day want to become a coach, that I want to give knowledge to kids, but it never crossed my mind that I would come back.”

Now that he’s back Cheaney wants to win as much now as the days when he led the Hoosiers to glory.

“Winning starts with work ethic,” he says. “When you have that mental preparation, that’s winning basketball. All of sudden you’re winning Big Ten championships and competing for national championships and doing it every year.”

This is why Crean wanted Cheaney on his staff, and now that he’s got him, well, figure it’s gonna be a good run.

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