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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pacers working out big men

Friday, June 6, 2008


AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers brought in four post players this week for workouts, perhaps seeking a successor to Jermaine O'Neal.

The Pacers have said they need to improve their inside game, and they have made it clear that O'Neal, a six-time All-Star power forward, could be traded.

On Wednesday, the Pacers brought in Nebraska center Aleks Maric and Kansas center Sasha Kaun. The next day, Indiana watched power forwards Richard Hendrix from Alabama and Rob Kurz from Notre Dame. The Pacers could take one of them with the 11th or 41st pick in the NBA draft on June 26.

Maric, a 6-foot-11, 275-pound Australian, and Kaun, a 6-11, 245-pound Russian, both excelled in the rugged Big 12 Conference, admire Spurs center Tim Duncan for his fundamental skills and could play for their national teams at the Olympics.

Maric averaged 15.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this past season for the Cornhuskers, who reached the NIT tournament. His best attributes are strength, intelligence and toughness.

"I'm not the greatest athlete with a 40-inch vertical," he said. "I just try to play a smart game."

Maric would like to join Erick Strickland, Tyronn Lue and Eric Piatkowski as Huskers who have had successful NBA careers.

"People can knock Nebraska for being a football school, but it's the Big 12 conference, and you go up against the best competition night in and night out. If there's any place you can get ready, it's the Big 12.

Maric isn't worried about what the experts say because he feels he controls his fate. He said has at least six more stops to make before the draft.

"I just go out here and work on a lot of things," he said. "That's the mentality you have to have. I'll try to stay away from the mock drafts and sites and what people say. Hard work is what's going to get you somewhere."

Kaun helped Kansas win the national championship this season, but he didn't have the same basketball dreams as many of the players he worked out with. He didn't play organized basketball until he left Russia and went to high school, and never seriously thought about playing in the NBA until the past year.

"Coming out of high school, playing in college was a big dream for me because I never thought I'd have the chance. Here I was playing for one of the premier colleges, and now I have a chance to make a (professional) team."

Kaun averaged 7.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a senior for the Jayhawks.

"I can thank all my coaches -- my high school coach and my college coach -- who put in all the time with me and put up with me," he said.

Hendrix, at 6-9 and 255 pounds, was an all-Southeastern Conference performer for Alabama. He averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Crimson Tide as a junior before declaring early.

Hendrix said he'll head to the West Coast for more tryouts, showing them the same skills he tried to show Indiana president of basketball operations Larry Bird and coach Jim O'Brien.

"I just want to prove I'm probably a little more athletic than people think I am and also that I can shoot the ball a lot better than people might realize," he said.

The 6-9, 232-pound Kurz was a team captain for Notre Dame who was known for his physical play and intelligence. His workout with Indiana was his first, and he was relieved to get it out of the way.

"I didn't really know what to expect," he said. "It's nice to get this first one under my belt. It's fun to play against great players and interact with great coaches and get to meet people like Larry Bird."

He was more familiar with the Pacers than the other prospects were. He knows current Pacer and former Notre Dame star Troy Murphy, and he watched many of Indiana's games on television.

"I would love to play for them or obviously any team in the NBA, but the Pacers have a great tradition and it seems like a great organization," he said.

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