Haase has whole town watching | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Haase has whole town watching

Steve Yingling

If Tahoe residents need to furnish an alibi for Wednesday night, it’s likely the whole town may share the same whereabouts – at home, in front of the TV.

With hometown hero Jerod Haase’s basketball future possibly being revealed in the NBA draft tomorrow on TNT, townspeople are brimming with anticipation and excitement.

Will Jerod be drafted? Who will be lucky enough to get him? Will his broken wrist keep him out the draft? Does he belong in the same league with Michael Jordan and Karl Malone?

Of course, we’re biased in Tahoe, but there’s every reason to believe South Tahoe High’s greatest basketball son will be snatched up before the 58-player draft concludes.

Few players approach the game with such passion and effort. How many times have you seen Haase walk up the court? His total disregard for protecting his body equals the effort a mother or father would use to save their child’s life.

There was nothing special about Haase’s performance the first time this Tribune reporter saw him play against Half Moon Bay in the Viking Classic in 1990: He overcame foul trouble to score 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field.

After watching Shon Tarver and David Harbour light up the high school ranks in Ventura County in 1989, Haase didn’t match up offensively. But it wasn’t long before his unselfishness, defensive tenacity, coolness, court savvy and intensity convinced me he was better than Tarver and Harbour. He plays basketball the way it was meant to be played: from baseline to baseline.

Neither Harbour or Tarver play in the NBA today. Harbour graduated from Stanford last year and probably is employed by some engineering firm. Last time I checked, Tarver was playing in the CBA.

After a tumultuous coaching change during his freshman campaign at Cal, Haase was scooped up by Kansas’ Roy Williams, perhaps the best college coach in the country today.

If Haase can start three seasons for one of the most prestigious college basketball schools in the country, what makes anyone think he can’t play in the NBA?

“I’ve said before that Jerod could survive in the NBA for 10 years because he does all the right things, is a good member to have on a team and every pro coach needs to have one or two guys they like to talk to,” Williams said.

Williams attached so many positive attributes to Haase during a Monday afternoon phone conversation, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think he’s serving as Haase’s agent.

“For us, he was fantastic,” Williams said. Isn’t fantastic the NBA’s favorite noun?

Williams went on to say, “Because of people like Jerod, it’s made this the easiest coaching job and the most enjoyable coaching job in America. Any pro coach, if they do get in a position to have him as a member of their squad, they are as lucky as they possibly can be.”

Any team that looks beyond Haase’s collegiate scoring average of 11.3 points per game and shooting percentage of 42.2 percent, will know the actual worth of the 1996-97 GTE Academic All-American first-teamer.

In this day when many athletes are risks off the court, any NBA team who invests in Haase for the future won’t worry when he leaves the arena each night.

“I think the NBA with each and every year has gotten more concerned about the quality of people they are bringing in. It’s only going to help to have people like Jerod,” Williams said. “There are still question marks about his game, but all the things he does on the basketball court have to make you forget about those question marks”

Haase actually prefers going undrafted. The ” J Man” is even approaching draft day like one of the overlooked: he’s planning to play 36 holes of golf.

“I can’t control what goes on Wednesday, but I can control what happens on that three-foot putt facing me,” he said.

By being bypassed in the draft, Haase feels he’ll have a better chance of pinpointing and making a team that really needs him.

“My chances of making the NBA aren’t great, but I love those situations where I’m the underdog and can prove people wrong. I have played against a lot of NBA players where I know I won’t look silly on the court.”

But Haase is no longer a hidden secret like he was coming out of STHS. Basketball’s best minds know about him. Last week, Utah expressed interest in using its second-round pick on Haase.

I’m sure I’m not in a minority in predicting that Haase will go late in the second round to either the Jazz, Bulls, Celtics or Lakers.

Hopefully, Haase will have all 36 holes in by then, so he can enjoy the moment he so richly deserves.

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