Former Cardinal Gibbons point guard Kenny Hasbrouck, who played… (Getty photo )
Like many college basketball stars whose professional careers don't immediately click in the NBA, Kenny Hasbrouck fell off the radar after he graduated from Siena last year. A rib injury in minicamp with the Miami Heat last summer and a broken foot suffered while playing a pickup game with some of his former teammates last fall left the former Cardinal Gibbons standout waiting for another chance.
It almost came in March, when the Heat signed Hasbrouck to a couple of 10-day contracts off the roster of an NBA Development League team. But the opportunity ended when Heat officials later learned that Hasbrouck had been arrested on a DUI charge in February in upstate New York. As a result, he was left off the team's playoff roster for its opening-round series against the Boston Celtics.
At the time, Hasbrouck feared that it might have cost him a shot at an NBA career.
"I was really worried about my image. I didn't want to be portrayed as somebody who goes out partying and driving around drunk and just being a knucklehead," recalled Hasbrouck, who was found by police near Albany, N.Y., to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, raising the charge to an aggravated DUI. "The Heat knew me before and knew the person I was, and luckily gave me another chance."
That chance came the past two weeks, when the 6-foot-3 point guard was part of the Heat's summer league team in Las Vegas. With second-year player Mario Chalmers the only point guard currently under contract on a roster that underwent a major overhaul to accommodate the re-signing of Dwyane Wade and the celebrated signings of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Hasbrouck has an opportunity to make the Heat for the 2010-11 season.
"I can't say that I'm working harder than I already was working because LeBron and Bosh are on the team now," Hasbrouck, 23, said last week from Las Vegas. "It's a dream of mine already [to play in the NBA]. I've been pushing as hard as I could before, but it would be pretty exciting to play with guys like that. I don't need any extra motivation for it."
Hasbrouck is battling fellow free agents Jon Scheyer of Duke and Patrick Beverley, a second-round draft choice in 2009 from Arkansas, for one of the two backup point guard spots, though it seems likely that the Heat will sign a veteran to play behind Chalmers. Everyone from Allen Iverson to Penny Hardaway either has been mentioned or publicly campaigned for the job.
"What we look for with guys like Kenny ÃÂ is an absolute desperation to get in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday. "Within that desperation they have an understanding of how they can fit. The deciding factor with these guys is they work to improve. Kenny has shown a very strong work ethic with us, and we've seen the results."
Said Hasbrouck, who averaged a team-high 13.6 points in the summer league: "I look at it as I need to step in and do my job. When you have a team like that, you just try to be the best piece of the puzzle that you can be. You're not going to have to do too much when you have guys like that on your team, but when the time comes, you're going to have to step up and produce."
It is a much different role than Hasbrouck played in college, where nearly from the start he was the go-to guy for the Saints. By the time his college career was over, he had scored more than 1,900 points and had his jersey number retired after leading Siena to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including a run to the Sweet 16 his senior year.
"It's very tough, going from being 'the man' to basically being another guy trying to make a team. It's hard to cope with at first," Hasbrouck acknowledged. "I've always had to work and earn everything I've gotten, so I was ready for that adjustment, but nobody wants to be like that. Everyone wants to be someone who knows their destination and knows where they're going to wind up in the future."
A pure scorer who started at the point as a sophomore and played there part time as a senior, Hasbrouck said he has worked hard on improving his jump shot and refining his point guard skills. Though Hasbrouck showed he was still adjusting -- he had more turnovers (14) than assists (12) -- former Siena coach Fran McCaffery believes he can make the transition.
"A lot of guys have a tough time making the transition from [shooting guard] to [point guard], but not him. He can defend, he's bullet-quick, he can make shots, and he's really good in the pick-and-roll, he's really good on the break," McCaffery, now going into his first season at the University of Iowa, said of his first Siena recruit.
"I call him a one percenter. One percent of the players compete like him. Every possession, every practice, every game, he worked as hard as he could possibly compete. That translates well in [the NBA]. You're not going to get outplayed, you're going to get embarrassed. He is a tremendous leader, a tremendous worker [and] he did everything you would want in a player and a person."