Incredible shrinking 'Big City'
Thursday, November 15, 2007
By ADAM ZAGORIA
EAST RUTHERFORD -- When Memphis coach John Calipari called Hashim Bailey into his office last spring, it wasn't to give him a pat on the back.
No, Calipari was sending Bailey home to Paterson with marching orders to come back in the best shape of his life.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore known as "Big City" had gotten too big for Cal's liking. He was up to about 300 pounds.
"I didn't feel too good" when Calipari sent him home, Bailey said Wednesday during a Memphis practice at the Nets practice facility. "I wanted to stay down there (in Memphis) and make some money or something, work the camps with Cal."
Instead, Bailey went to work with Passaic Tech coach Mike Boorman to prepare for the upcoming season, which continues for the No. 3 Tigers (2-0) tonight when they take on Oklahoma in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden.
Boorman, who ascended to head coach at Tech when Ron Williams retired, began putting Bailey through a series of brutal workouts three or four days a week at L.A. Fitness in Wayne.
"He wanted to (start) at (noon), I wanted him to come at 6 (a.m.), so we split the different and he came at 7," Boorman said with a laugh during the Memphis practice.
Bailey began a typical day by lifting weights for 30 minutes before running on the treadmill. After a morning session, he and Boorman would repair to the Tech gym for wind sprints and pickup basketball games with others. After that, still more running.
In the evening, Bailey worked on his game in the famed Rucker League in Harlem.
"Sometimes he would do three-a-day (workouts) on his own and he wouldn't even tell me," Boorman said. "He did a little more than I even was aware of."
Bailey also radically changed his diet, cutting out red meat and soda in favor of grilled chicken and water.
Bailey is down to 273 pounds and some of his teammates jokingly call him "Little City."
"I saw him when he was in high school, so I knew he was thin, but he gained a lot of weight his freshman year," said Memphis freshman Jeff Robinson, who helped St. Patrick of Elizabeth win back-to-back Tournament of Champions titles. "So I was kind of happy when he went home and got ready every morning to lose that weight so he could come back and play."
Bailey has become more of a factor in practices and games, too.
A year ago, Boorman said, Bailey was hardly involved in practices and often watched from the periphery. During Wednesday's workout, Bailey guarded standout forwards Joey Dorsey, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier and looked energetic, if not speedy, running up and down the court. Robinson said the new version of Big City "makes the practices more competitive."
"I feel a lot better," Bailey said. "I feel I can keep up with the team now. I get tired quickly, but I still keep up."
Calipari said Bailey can still only last a couple of minutes at a stretch, but it's a huge improvement over last year.
"The biggest thing was he was able to run with us," Calipari said. "If you can't get up and down the floor, forget about that next level (the NBA) because if you can't run, you can't play. Well, he's learning to run."
There is no place for slowpokes in Calipari's new Dribble Drive Motion offense, which emphasizes attacking the basket on dribble drives. Running and cutting are at a premium.
"It's a European-style spread offense," Calipari said. "It's kind of like Princeton on steroids because it's faster, but it's the same deal. We're spread. We run backdoors. Some teams want five passes before they shoot. We want five drives before we shoot. And everybody that drives knows where everybody's supposed to be on the court."
"It's a lot of tip-back dunks and stuff like that (for big men) with our offense," Bailey said.
Bailey is playing behind some high-profile players in Dorsey, Taggart and Dozier, but against a team like Oklahoma, Calipari hinted that Big City might get a chance to show something.
"These guys have big bruisers," Calipari said. "All of a sudden you stick (Bailey) in. How long can you stay in there? Can you make a difference in the game?"
Bailey hopes he gets a chance to show something tonight and tomorrow in front of his family in his first game at Madison Square Garden.
" 'Big City' in the Big Apple," Bailey joked. "Hopefully I can get out there and show you all some things."
Twenty-eight NBA teams have come through Memphis to watch star freshman guard Derrick Rose, who is likely one-and-done.
One day, Bailey dreams of potentially joining him in the pros.
"Of course," he said. "That's everybody's dream."