Paul George next josh howard?

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Paul George next josh howard?

By Austin Burton

Fresno State's Paul George

It’s truly a new era. A couple months after top-ranked high school senior Harrison Barnes broke ground by announcing his commitment to North Carolina via Skype, Fresno State sophomore Paul George became the first college player to announce his NBA Draft intentions via Twitter.

@King24George: Testing the waters my tweets but I’m leanin towards leavin to the draft.

That was on Friday, the day after Fresno State had been knocked out of the WAC Tournament by Louisiana Tech. Although the Bulldogs finished under-.500 for the third straight season, George averaged 16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.2 steals, scoring 30 against New Mexico State and 29 apiece in games against San Jose State and Pepperdine. In Fresno’s season-ending loss, the 6-8 small forward put up 22 points, 11 boards and three steals.

Before this season, I profiled George in a “What’s My Name?” article in Dime #53. At the time, George was riding off the notoriety of one memorable dunk from his freshman year, but was intent on showing he had more to offer than a single highlight.

*** *** ***

To call Paul George a one-dunk wonder would be a little bit premature, and a whole lot of wrong.

True, nobody was really checking for the Fresno State forward prior to his using a late-night national TV stage to put St. Mary’s guard Mickey McConnell on the dark side of YouTube. (As the ESPN crew temporarily forgot their “announcer” voices and went back to the playground, McConnell fell, tried to get up, and fell again like he’d been caught by a Klitschko cross.) And with FSU ultimately finishing 13-21 and losing in the WAC quarterfinals, George didn’t get much attention after that dunk. But to the USA Basketball officials that invited George to tryout for the Under-19 national team (a foot injury forced him to decline), and the NBA scouts that have him ranked high in the 2010 Draft prospectus, there is more to George’s game than one highlight.

“I really didn’t see anybody in the lane, so I thought I’d go ahead and dunk it,” George says of his so-far defining play. “That’s why I had no expression on my face or anything. I honestly didn’t know anybody was there; I was just flying, floating to the rim.

“I was kind of scared of what would happen after I saw it,” he admits. “It’s good to be a Top-10 play, but I don’t want to be labeled as just that. It worked out for the good, though. That was kind of like my coming-out party.”

George — who averaged 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals as a freshman — grew up in Palmdale, Calif., in a family of athletes. One older sister, Portala, played volleyball at Cal State-San Bernadino, while the other sister, Teiosha, plays pro basketball in Germany. Paul honed his game at Domenic Massari Park, and as he grew into his 6-foot-8 frame, he and his boys would drive out to UCLA, to Venice Beach, and to the courts in nearby San Clarita, Calif., to find the best runs. Paul averaged 25 points and 12 boards as a senior at Pete Knight High School, however he wasn’t a big-time recruit.

“He was very thin, and in high school he played with his back to the basket,” says Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland. “So he was somewhat under the radar, but I think with everyone you recruit you have to have a vision of what he could become. I knew he was going to get better, and he’s committed himself to the weight room and continues to get stronger.” (George has gained 20 pounds of muscle since arriving on campus, putting him at 210 currently.)

While FSU wasn’t competing with a lot of high-major schools for the underrated local product, the Bulldogs weren’t immediate front-runners, either. Still recovering from a four-year NCAA probation that began in 2003 (before Cleveland was hired), convincing recruits to help rebuild the program has been a challenge.

“It wasn’t an issue at all,” George says of Fresno’s past problems. “It didn’t scare me away or anything. Coach Cleveland is a good dude – I liked him a lot. Then I came up here, and I saw how the atmosphere is and how the community is behind the athletes. I wanted to come here and make the program better.”

Last season, George did his part when he posted 25 points and 10 boards in that St. Mary’s game, scored 24 against UNLV, and had 29 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks against Boise State. He hit 44.7 percent of his threes, and Cleveland says this year the offense will prominently feature isolations for George to produce points.

“I’d like to compare myself to something like a Tracy McGrady or a Josh Howard-type player — one of those smooth cats that you know can do it all, but silently gets 20 or 30 points,” George says. “One of those silent assassin players.”

“The one thing about Paul is that he’s still learning a new position,” adds Cleveland. “In high school he was basically a 4-5, and for us he’s playing the three. One of the things he’s done so well is letting the game come to him. He’s improved his ability to shoot the three and his ball-handling. He’s long defensively, so he creates mismatches. Generally speaking, though, his greatest asset is his work ethic.”

The next level is on notice. At press time, George was slotted No. 9 on popular mock draft site Now, beyond trying to get Fresno State above .500 and making some postseason noise, George’s other challenge is to not let the pro talk get to his head.

“I’m still grounded. None of that NBA stuff means nothing unless you play well,” George says. “I’ve seen what happens with guys when they forget what it’s like to work hard. Where I came from, it’s nowhere, really. There’s nothing there, so you’ve got to work for things. I’m going to be the same hard-working guy.”

JNixon's picture
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He's closer to Danny Granger

He's closer to Danny Granger than Josh Howard. Him and Wes Johnson are both like Granger.

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I have not seen this guy

I have not seen this guy play. I have some questions though, why is he at Fresno State, and not a PAC10 school? Also, why isn't he leading his team to either the NIT or NCAA tournament if he is soo good a la Stephen Curry at Davidson?? That's all I want to know. Not being critical, just want to know the facts.

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Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry is a spicial player his iq make him so good if pual had that he would go first

jojososa's picture
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I dnt think he had so much of a a bad season I think he just played on a pretty weak team obviously and I believe him bolting for tha draft is smarthis stock should jump back up during tha rookie workouts

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I think he's more talented than Josh Howard. He reminds me a little of Pippen or Hill with his smooth athleticism.

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George 2

Sorry not as polished as either obvoiusly though. As with any of these young guys these days; staying a couple years would give them a much greater opportunity to special.

HueBoND 2001
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Good talent but josh howard has tremendous handle for his size though not at the same athletic compartment game time to George, I think he knows how to use his body much better to the rim. So Paul george is not there in that aspect, but the Danny Grainger comment seems right on to me, he is going to be a project. Either a good off the bench player such as rodney carney...or a 3 in out player Qyntel Woods.

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