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Albuquerque Thunderbirds guard Keith McLeod Q&A

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By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

Keith McLeod, a guard on the NBA D-League’s Albuquerque Thunderbirds, recently took time to do a Q&A feature interview with The Capital Sports Report. His feature interview is about his playing career.

TCSR: On attending the same high school as Eric Snow in Canton McKinley HS

KM: “There’s a great tradition there. A lot of guys come through there — Eric Snow, Phil Hubbard, Gary Grant — I went to all of their basketball camps (growing up). I watched those guys growing up, but those guys paved the way for me. I have nothing but respect for those guys. Any time I see them, I show them respect and I appreciate them paving the way for me getting to where I’m at today.”

TCSR: On why he chose to go to Bowling Green

KM: “They’ve recruited me real heavy. In my 11th grade year, we had a good team and everybody on the team averaged around 10 or 11 points each. We had a great bunch of guys and I didn’t know what my senior year was going to be like — I didn’t know that I was going to be Mr. Basketball in Ohio — so I ended up signing my junior year. I just went ahead and got it out of the way, so I didn’t have to worry about it my senior year.”

TCSR: On being the MAC Player of the Year and helping Bowling Green to an NIT berth

KM: “We had a good team. Germain Fitch, Cory Ryan, Brent Klassen, Jabari Mattox — we had a good team. And those guys helped me get better. Fortunately, we made it to the NIT, but unfortunately, we lost in the first game in the tournament. It was a great experience and a great college experience. I made a lot of friends that I still talk to now. It’s something that I’ll always remember.”

TCSR: On being the school’s second all-time leading scorer

KM: “It means a lot. I wish we would have made it to the NCAA March Madness Tournament — that would have meant a lot more to me and my teammates. It’s a great accomplishment and I have to give a lot of credit to my coach at the time, Dan Dakich. The system that he had set up there helped me pass the guys that were in front of me on the scoring list. A lot of the credit goes to coach Dakich — he helped me out a lot during my time at BG. Fortunately for me, I did become the school’s second all-time leading scorer.”

TCSR: On not being drafted in the NBA in 2002

KM: “Coming out (of college), I didn’t have a lot of workouts. The workouts that I did have against the guys that I did workout against, I felt like I could play in the NBA. There was no question that I could play in the league. I guess you could say I did have a chip (motivation against the team’s that didn’t draft him). I think I performed better than some of the guys that were drafted. It was just them drawing a number, I guess.”

TCSR: On being drafted by the Yakuma Sun Kings in the CBA and the Saint Joseph Express of the USBL in 2002

KM: “Those were experiences for me, too. I played in those small cities and playing here in the NBDL is a step above, or a couple of steps above, those leagues. The travel is different, as we were bused every where. But it was an experience for me. It was a humbling experience to get to where I needed to be.”

TCSR: On being one of two players, including Antonio Daniels, from Bowling Green to recently play in the NBA

KM: “It means a lot. Besides me and him, I think Nate Thurman — I think only 3 guys from the school have made it to the league. It’s a great accomplishment for us. When we see each other, we shake hands, smile, and laugh — and appreciate where we’ve come from and where we’ve been to. I’m sure there’s a lot of guys coming up — I haven’t seen any of their games lately — but I’m sure their senior recruiting class coming in, I don’t know what their future holds for those players making it to the NBA.”

TCSR: On being teammates with Kevin Garnett with the Minnesota Timberwolves

KM: “He’s a great guy. That was my rookie year and he took me under his wing. He did everything right.”

TCSR: On why he thinks things didn’t work out for KG in Minnesota

KM: “I think Kevin just needed a change. I think Boston was that perfect fit for him. He was in Minnesota for a lot of years and things didn’t go the way that they wanted it to. I think it was time for the organization and for him to move on.”

TCSR: On how the game is different in Italy compared to the States. Played for Mabo Prefabbricati Livorno, Lottomatica Virtus Roma and Montepaschi Siena in Italy.

KM: “There really isn’t much of a post game over there. All the big guys play on the perimeter. Some of the rules are different — a lot less traveling calls — but for the most part, its still basketball. The guys over there are real talented players and the competition is good. Playing from there and here, it’s a little bit different.”

TCSR: On being coached by Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan during his time in Utah

KM: “Jerry’s a great teacher. He’s an equal opportunity guy. As long as you work hard, you could play for Jerry. Jerry’s system is a great teaching tool for young rookies coming in (the league) and even guys that’s been in the league for a while. He knows the game, probably as good as anybody. From my experience with Utah, Jerry was great!”

TCSR: On being teammates with Deron Williams in Utah

KM: “Deron played well as a rookie, which is a credit to Jerry’s teaching and knowledge of the game. And that has turned Deron into the player that he’s today. When he came in as a rookie, he had so much potential. Jerry was patient with him and now he’s developed into an All-Star player.”

TCSR: On being coached by Warriors head coach Don Nelson during his time in Oakland

KM: “Again, Don Nelson is another Hall-of-Fame guy. Playing for Don Nelson and Jerry Sloan is like playing on two extremes on both ends. Jerry’s more of a defensive-orientated guy, while Don’s more of an offensive-orientated guy. Don always wants to get the ball up the court as fast as possible. Don Nelson was great for me, too, and I learned a lot from him, also.”

TCSR: On being traded to the Indiana Pacers with Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, and Ike Diogu for Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Šarunas Jasikevičius, and Josh Powell in January 2007

KM: “That’s the NBA. The organization always makes moves that they think will benefit the team and that puts the players in different situations. I went over to Indiana and played for Rick Carlisle and had a successful end to the season there.”

TCSR: On being acquired by Indiana President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird and any advice that he may have given you

KM: “Larry really didn’t talk much when he came around us. Bird was always a motivator though. When I was there, Bird never had anything bad to say about the guys on the team — even when we lost a game — it was always positive. He was always motivating guys to play well and keep their heads up. That means a lot to the players more than people understand. He was always positive around us.”

TCSR: On playing in the NBDL

KM: “It’s an experience for me. Its my first-year ever playing in this league. The competition is great, and I was fortunate enough to go to a good team with a good group of guys around me. A lot of the teams that you’re apart of, you don’t really get to go out and spend time together; but we go out to dinner after games, we have a lot of camaraderie as a team. I’m just taking it all in now and I’m happy to be here. I appreciate being here with everybody on the team. It’s a new experience for me, and I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The D-League has come a long way and hopefully, it continues to improve.”

TCSR: On what he would like to do after basketball

KM: “Hopefully, I could play forever. But I really don’t know. I have a camp back home that I run each summer for the kids. Hopefully, I could do something in that aspect, as I’m still trying to give back to my community. Where I grew up at, I see some of the things that they go through are some of the same things that I went through growing up. Hopefully, I make an impact on their lives when I go home — its hard, but you can always make it out and do something positive.”

TCSR: On potentially going into coaching after running basketball camps

KM: “I don’t know about coaching. From seeing the coaches that I’ve been with, its very stressful. I don’t know about the whole coaching aspect; it’s a possibility, but I don’t think it’ll be my first choice.”

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