No, Kenneth Faried is not intimidated by the comparisons to Dennis Rodman. He's flattered. "Ecstatic" is actually the word that Faried used.
Like Rodman, Faried plays his college ball in the basketball boondocks. He's at Morehead State, which is hidden about 65 miles east of John Calipari's program at the University of Kentucky. Like Rodman, Faried chases rebounds as if the next decade of his life depends upon it. Last summer, when a friend said he could connect Faried with Rodman on the telephone, Faried asked him to please make the call.
"When he got on the phone, he said, 'You’re the kid that everybody keeps comparing to me?' " Faried said.
"I said, 'Yes, sir.' He just told me that he'd heard I was a pretty good rebounder and to keep doing what I was doing. He said you have to believe that every rebound that comes down is yours.
"It was pretty amazing. I can't put it into words what it means to be compared to a guy who played in the NBA at that level. So when I go out there, I try to believe that every rebound is mine."
Believe it? Faried lives by that philosophy. Ask Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons at Florida. Faried grabbed 18 rebounds and had 20 points against the Gators. Ask Jared Sullinger at Ohio State. Faried hung 15 points and a dozen boards against the Buckeyes.
Faried has twice dragged home 20 rebounds in a game this season, but he has promised his mother at least three more 20-rebound games and one game with 30.
Are 30 rebounds possible?
"Yes," Faried said.
No surprise that he leads the nation in rebounding. He's collecting 13.3 per game. Only two national rebounding leaders have averaged more in the past decade – and one was that Blake Griffin kid at Oklahoma, who averaged 14.4.
This is the third consecutive season Faried has averaged at least 13 boards, which explains why NBA scouts keep winding their way to Morehead. Although Faried might sneak into the end of the first round in the 2011 draft, he’s more likely to hear his name called early in the second round.
"If you're talking about college basketball, I'd take him in a second," one NBA scout said. "Faried's a high-energy guy who plays hard and practices even harder. He doesn't just get the rebounds that come right to him. He goes and gets them all over the floor.
"But for the NBA, you're taking a chance because he's 6-8 and he's going to be playing against guys who are 6-11 and he's not a shooter. The second round is more likely."
There’s nothing wrong with the second round. Ask Rodman. The Pistons took him three picks into the second round out of Southeastern Oklahoma State in 1986, and nearly 12,000 rebounds later people still view Rodman as one of the best rebounders of the past 25 years.
Here is where the Rodman comparisons fit. Both guys are undersized – Rodman 6-7, Faried 6-8. Both were born in New Jersey – Rodman in Trenton, Faried in Newark. Both developed outside the college basketball mainstream. Both go directly to the glass with an amazing ability to get up and down twice before mortals return to the ground the first time.
But know this: Faried has Rodman’s relentless motor without the train-wreck personality, millions of tattoos or Technicolor hairdos.
"Kenneth is 12 hours from becoming the first person in his family to earn a degree," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. "He's not a drinker, and he's not a smoker.
"He's been unbelievable for our basketball program and in the Morehead community. He's the kind of kid who can fit in talking to the university president or a group of 10-year-olds."
Obvious follow-up question: So how does a guy who already has grabbed 1,418 rebounds in his career make his way from Newark to Morehead State?
Simple answer: Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. was the only other Division I school that offered Faried a scholarship after he graduated from Technology High School in 2007.
Rutgers and Seton Hall, two home-state schools, were mildly interested, but they wanted Faried to spend a season at a prep school. One recruiting service, Rivals, gave Faried two stars. Scout.com didn’t give him any. The gurus didn’t really err. Faried sat out the AAU circuit before his senior season, He had breathing issues that he thought were strictly caused by asthma. Turns out that in addition to asthma, Faried was also playing with a deviated septum that blocked 100 percent of one nasal passage and 30 percent of the other. It was finally surgically repaired last spring.
Faried was simply another 6-foot-7, 185-pound forward trying to survive and then escape a difficult life, living on the 24th floor of the 28-story Zion Towers in Newark. Shootings. Gangs. Drugs. Faried saw it all – and refused to stray.
His mother, Waudda Faried, would not allow it.
"My mother drove a bus in town," Kenneth Faried said. "Everybody knows my mother and loves my mother, so everybody looked after me."
There is much to love about Waudda Faried. There is also much to admire. She has been battling lupus, a disease that affects the body's immune system, for more than two decades. Last May, Waudda was blessed with a kidney transplant.
The 2011 NBA Draft is scheduled for June 23 – at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., because Madison Square Garden is under renovation. Both Kenneth Faried and his mother plan to attend.
"From the time I was a little boy, she embedded it in me that if I wanted to score the ball, I had to rebound the ball first," Kenneth Faried said. "That’s how I have tried to play. I hope we can celebrate together."
The next Paul Milsap? DeJuan Bliar? Undersized post player with non stop motors who attack the glass relentlessly are becoming more and more known throughout the NBA. I'm sure the Lakers have taken notice, and I hope he's still available when the Lakers are up on draft day.