Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Mickeal could step up to NBA

Former Bearcat showcasing skills in ABA

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Mickeal acknowledges UC fans as he leaves his final home game in 2000.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        When Pete Mickeal was playing for the University of Cincinnati, his winning track record was well-documented. He played for two junior college national championship teams at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College, going a combined 76-1.

        The Bearcats were 56-10 during Mickeal's two years.

        Now he's with the Kansas City Knights, the regular-season champions of the American Basketball Association. The Knights have a first-round bye in the league's postseason tournament, which begins tonight in Anaheim, Calif.

        Kansas City finished 32-5, nine games ahead of second-place Southern California. But it has gone 24-2 since Mickeal joined the club Jan.16 and takes a 22-game winning streak into the single-elimination tourney.

        Mickeal is among the top candidates for the ABA's most valuable player award. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 23.4 points (sixth in the league), 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists with a high game of 42 points.

        He is shooting 58.8 percent from the field (third-best among regular players), 38.2 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the foul line.

        “He was hands-down the best player every single night in our league,” Kansas City associate head coach Michael Born said. “He's had games where he's been 10-for-18 and he's apologized to us, saying he didn't bring it like he needs to bring it.”

        Among Mickeal's teammates: Thomas More College graduate Rick Hughes (21.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg).

        Kansas City was interested in Mickeal for some of the same attributes he had as a college player: toughness, defense, finishing around the basket.

        And winning. His Indian Hills/UC/Kansas City record is 156-13 (.923).

        “Because he's not a big-time athlete and he's not a big slasher and he's not going to jump over anybody or shoot a bunch of 3s, he kind of almost lulls you to sleep a little bit,” Born said. “And then when it's done, he's got 32 points and 12 rebounds and you're like, "Ge ez, where did that come from?'”

        Mickeal was selected No.58 overall by the New York Knicks in the 2000 NBA draft and spent the summer with the franchise but eventually was released. He went to Tampa to play for its ABA team, but in the fourth game he went up for a rebound, came down and tore his Achilles.

        “I watched everybody play all year,” Mickeal said. “I think that's what motivated me the most. I finally got to sit back and study the game. I looked at all the tapes from college — all the things I did right, all the things I did wrong.”

        He was living in Miami and gained 20-25 pounds. One doctor said he didn't know if Mickeal would walk straight. “It was a hard process,” Mickeal said. “I didn't know what to do without basketball. The thing about it is, not one day went by where I got down on myself. Not one day. I think that helped.”

        The cast came off for good in June — after four months. Mickeal spent July in a walking boot and resumed walking without it in August. He was in the gym by October and in December went to London but couldn't find the kind of deal he was looking for.

        That's when Mickeal returned to the United States and landed with the Knights.

        “From the first game I got here, I've been ready to play,” Mickeal said. “My game is so much better now than it was when I got hurt, it's not even funny. I know how to play the game better, shoot the ball better. I'm smarter about the decisions I make. I go to the hole better. I'm driven by what happened and the process I went through.”

        George Bass, Mickeal's Dallas-based agent, said eight or nine NBA teams have asked about his client and he expects Mickeal will play for an NBA team in a summer league.

        Mickeal said he had an offer to earn $30,000 for one month playing in Spain, but the team wanted him to leave Tuesday, which he declined to do out of loyalty to Kansas City.

        “This team has been great to me,” Mickeal said. “I wouldn't just pick up and leave them like that. We're really going to blast these guys Thursday and Friday. Nobody can stop us.”


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