NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — During the last Big East college basketball season, there were three players under serious consideration for conference player of the year honors, namely Kemba Walker of Connecticut, Dwight Hardy of St. John’s and Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame.
On Monday, as the Nets hosted their final workout prior to Thursday’s NBA draft, two of those three rivals – Hardy and Hansbrough – found themselves battling once again, this time for attention from the handful of scouts and Nets brass watching their every move.
“It’s always good to play with the good competition,” said Hansbrough, who was participating in his second workout since spraining his ankle three weeks ago. “Not only did I get a chance to play against Dwight again, but I also had the chance to play with him and I loved playing with him. He’s a very unselfish player and he’s very tough.”
The two Big East rivals joined four others who were brought in for the final workout: Greg Washington of Hofstra; Travis Leslie of Georgia; Mustapha Farrakhan of Virginia, the grandson of Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader; and Bangaly Fofana of France.
“If they come up to me, I’m not him. If you have a question about him, you should ask him. I love him to death. I have a great religious background,” Farrakhan said of his grandfather. “I’m going to focus in on bettering myself on the basketball court and get better every day.”
“Once I saw the list of people that were going here, I saw his name,” Hardy said of Hansbrough. “We’re both from the best conference in America, so I was highly energized knowing that he was going to be here. He’s a great competitor, he’s a great guy and I had fun with him.”
Hansbrough, the younger brother of former North Carolina star and Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, said he called upon his brother’s workout experiences three years ago to prepare for his sojourn around the country.
“Tyler has been a great influence on me,” said the younger Hansbrough, who averaged 18.4 points and 4.3 assists for Notre Dame last season. “He continues to tell me to bring intensity to every workout, tells me to go out there and show them what I have. He’s been an overachiever his whole life, so he’s easy to look up to.”
Hansbrough said he hurt his ankle three weeks ago during a simple workout in Indianapolis with one of his trainers and his high school coach from Poplar Bluff, Mo.
“The timing of this stinks, because I did miss some workouts,” said Hansbrough, who had five workouts with NBA clubs and will still visit Atlanta and Dallas before the draft. “Flying all over the country has been some tough going, but I felt like today was the best my ankle felt in a while.”
Hardy said he has a lot of respect for Hansbrough, but still believed he deserved the Big East player of the year award after averaging 18.3 points for a resurgent Red Storm program.
“Being that I helped to bring the excitement back to St. John’s basketball, I thought I should have gotten it,” Hardy said. “But it was well earned for Ben. It was a close race. As long as it was one of the top three guys (Hardy, Hansbrough and Walker), then that’s all that matters. It couldn’t have been anyone else.”
The 6-4 Farrakhan, who averaged 13.5 points last season for Virginia, is not worried about any negative connotation people may have of him because of his controversial grandfather.
“I’ve had this name my whole life and it’s never been a problem,” Farrakhan said. “I love my family to death. My grandfather is a huge sports fan. If I tell him I have a workout, he’ll have the butterflies of excitement more than me. He’s always telling me positive things.”
Nets general manager Billy King didn’t tip his hat as to which way his team was leaning in Thursday’s draft, with the Nets owning the 27th and 36th picks overall.
“We’re getting there,” King said. “We’re getting real close. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to get a good player.”
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