Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, February 17, 2002


Strickland looks for final shot

By Jerry Campany

Not much has changed for John Strickland since his All-American days at Hawaii Pacific from 1994-96 -- he still needs Tony Sellitto.

Strickland, 6-foot-8, can still score on anybody in basketball, as evidenced by his leading the National Basketball Development League in scoring with the Fayetteville Patriots earlier this year. He can also still draw anybody's scorn, as evidenced by the fact that he was waived by the same team Feb. 5 while he was still the fifth-best scorer in the league despite limited minutes.

Strickland, 30, has been playing professional basketball since he left HPU, starting out in training camp with the New York Knicks in the NBA, then playing in nearly every country that fields a basketball league.

He has played in enough leagues and led enough countries in scoring that he says he has put away nearly enough money to retire. But he has one thing to try first -- play a regular season game in the NBA.

"I hear a lot of good things. I took a huge pay cut to make this (the NBDL) my last go-round," Strickland said. "If I don't make it back this time I am going overseas for a few more years then I'll retire."

His last go-round was nearly cut short when his coach at Fayetteville, NBA Hall-of-Famer Nate "Tiny" Archibald, left the team to take an office job in the NBA. Strickland's minutes and starting job went with him.

A month into the job as new coach, Jeff Capel tried to cut Danny Johnson from his last-place team. The only problem was that Johnson is Strickland's best friend on the team, and Strickland takes care of his boys. He told Capel that he needed a few days to think about things and Capel released him.

But that was no problem for Strickland, as he was picked up by Sam Vincent to play for Mobile of the same league less than a week later.

"He (Vincent) said that he thought it was his birthday when he saw my name on the list," Strickland said. "Someone else said that he (Capel) might go down as one of the stupidest coaches in history, getting rid of me and Johnson."

It was not the first time Strickland had been released, not even the first time for the same transgression. The only difference between all those times and his college days was that he had grown too old for a coach to straighten him out by calling his mother.

"When he first came in he was nothing but a big headache," Sellitto said. "His first week here, I gave him a roommate and he came and said, 'I'm going home, Strick don't room with people.' I told him you get your bottom back in that room and pack your bags, you're going home. While he went to get his stuff I called his mom, she got on the phone and straightened it out in a minute."

His mom had an unusual hold on him, he was 4-foot-2 in front of her. He always responded to that. But Strickland is a veteran professional now, and running off to tell mommy is not part of a coach's job description. But maybe it should be.

"He (Sellitto) called my mother all the time," Strickland said. "He knew everybody's weak spots."

Strickland sees his latest release as a possible blessing in disguise. When he was let go, he got the call he had been waiting for -- a call from an NBA team.

The Toronto Raptors had been following Strickland and contacted his agent just to find out what happened. Toronto didn't make any promises, but did let him know that his effort in basketball's bush leagues was not going unnoticed.

Sellitto believes that his school's all-time leading rebounder would be on an NBA team's all-time list if he only could have learned to be the Strickland he knows is there deep down inside.

"Personally, I think if he wasn't such a wise guy he would be an eight-year NBA veteran by now," Sellitto said. "But after the facade is over, he is a terrific guy."

HPU Sports

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