Monday, October 4, 2010

Kings Jeter is little man making huge impressions

It’s impossible to know how good Kings rookie guard Eugene (Pooh) Jeter (that’s Jet-er, not as in Derek Gee-ter) will become.

However, two facts so far are undeniable. Jeter will not be out-worked. And he has impressed, personally and professionally, everyone who has been around him.

Kings coach Paul Westphal may have seen Jeter up close and personally more than anyone in the organization. Westphal was coaching Pepperdine when Jeter was playing for Portland State.

The coach said he didn’t know Jeter, but did recognize his talents.

“He was a great scorer,” Westphal said of the 26-year-old Jeter. “He’s always had a beautiful jump shot and he’s got that great speed. He’s a handful.”

Westphal said Jeter’s speed can be utilized particularly in a couple of ways.

“In the open court, especially,” said the coach, “but in high-and-pick roll situations is where a player like Pooh can be effective. I think the place Pooh’s improved the most since college is his leadership. He has improved his ability to get other players involved and be more than just a scorer.”

It’s good to see Jeter listed at 5-foot-11 because that means I’ve grown. After being measured my entire life at 5-9, I’m looking the Southern California native dead in the eyes.

Unfortunately, Jeter’s 175-pound listing is doing nothing for my 215 pounds.

Jeter said he's carried the nickname, Pooh, since birth.

"When I was born, my grandmother said I looked like a little black Pooh bear," he said.

Jeter was in 2006 Kings training camp and when asked what he’s done since, it didn’t take long to answer.

“I’ve been in the gym,” said Jeter, who has played in the NBDL and all over in Europe, including Spain, Ukraine and last season in Jerusalem.

Jeter said his European trip was no vacation, but it was enjoyable.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “In Europe, they have two-a-days (practice) the whole season. The (maximum) you can play is two games a week, so you play European competition and then you play in your league. There’s a lot of shooting.”

His elongated journey to the NBA unquestionably helps make him a favorite of Kings assistant coach Mario Elie.

Elie, a seventh-round pick in 1985 (back when the NBA draft was more than two rounds), played in Portugal, Argentina and Ireland before stints in the USBL, WBL and CBA.

“I love Pooh,” Elie said. “I love his command of the court and his work ethic. He sort of reminds me of me. He’s a guy who has been around. He’s an older player who has a good feel for the game and brings a lot of leadership out there.

“The boy works his butt off. He’s the first one (to practice) and the last one to leave. He’s always working on his game. I’m excited for him and for him to get the opportunity to play.”

Elie said he believes Jeter will get playing time. And that makes sense. Numerically, Jeter likely would be listed as the third point guard behind Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih.

However, they likely will be starters. So, it’s conceivable Jeter, with solid early play, could be the first guard off the bench.

“You’ve got to love guys like him,” Elie said of Jeter. “You’ve got to love this (basketball) thing here and he loves it. He’s always asking questions and what he needs to do to get better. I think he’s going to get some minutes on this team. He’s made a good case for himself. He came into camp in terrific shape.

“You never see this guy breathing hard,” said the assistant of Jeter. “He’s picking up (defensively) and he’s very vocal.”

Jeter’s penchant for quickly advancing the ball up court, via the pass as well as the dribble, could lead to easy baskets.

Moreover, his ballhandling ability makes him a perfect compliment to move Evans or Udrih to shooting guard.

Evans was asked if he and Jeter can play together.

“Definitely,” the Rookie of the Year said. “The coach and everybody on the team like him. He makes smart decisions and he’s really smart. He knows how to play the game the right way.”

Evans struggled when asked who in the league was as small as Jeter.

“Is Earl Boykins in the league?” Evans said with a chuckle. (He’s) probably the closest one. Oh, yeah, Nate Robinson, yeah.”

Should Jeter simulate Robinson’s impact (minus winning the dunk contests), the Kings should be very content.

Francisco Garcia said Jeter and Jason Thompson came into camp in the best shape, other than himself, of course.

“That’s what I do,” Garcia said. “I’m always in great shape.

“Pooh is going to be a very good player. He’s a good player, who works hard. He just doesn’t get tired. He’s going to be around this league a long time if he keeps doing that.”

The Kings will be happy with that and so will Jeter.

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