Wednesday, December 17, 2008

DeJuan Wheat - Mexico's Finest

My all-time favorite college basketball player and the best player Louisville has seen since Dr. Dunkenstein is starring in the Mexicali league.

No, I'm not talking about Jason McClendon or Beau Zach Smith or even Reece Gaines or Cisco Garcia, but the man with the leg-kick at the top of his jumper, the coolest demeanor I've ever seen, and the source of countless memories from my younger days - DeJuan Wheat. Wheat is first all-time in minutes played and second in scoring in his career with the Cards. Currently Wheat is playing for Soles de Mexicali who are 30-6 this season and feature former (ahem) notable players like James Penny (the only American sounding name) and the NBA's first ever Mexican-born player Horacio Llamas. Wheat is averaging around 20 points a game and, from the looks of the video below, is still balling like he always did.

I always wonder why he never made it in the pros. However, like countless players before and after him, size and strength held him back, not ability. Wheat was drafted by the Lakers in '97 who immediately became my favorite team until he was cut and banished to Vancouver, a place where basketball careers went to die. Unable to find the right system, Wheat made a career overseas. Last time I saw him in Louisville, he was operating a lawn care service and allegedly out of basketball. It's an absolute thrill that he is back playing ball like he should be, even though it should be in a Knicks uniform instead of that waste of space Stephon Marbury. I have been trying to get a hold of him for interviews on the radio show and site to do a little reminiscing, but to no avail. If anybody can help out, let me know.

Wheat's number should be retired within the next 5 years. And when I say retired, I mean the #32 needs to sit next to those of Griffith, Unseld, Tyra and Ellison in the "Name TBD" Arena rafters for all eternity. Not honored a la Jack Coleman and Milt Wagner - RETIRED. How can your second all-time leading scorer who took the Cards to 3 Sweet 16's and an Elite 8 in a time where the Cards weren't getting the talent they were in the 80's or are presently no be in the rafters over 10 years since his departure? The '97 performance in the NCAA should alone give him enough. Even though we lost to UNC, Wheat gave them everything he had on a severely sprained ankle. The performance against UK in the Samaki Walker triple-double game stands out as well - I think he had like 25 points or more. For his 4 years, Louisville basketball went as DeJuan Wheat went. Although the '94-'97 era was not the most prosperous for Denny Crum, the team was successful and a force on the national scene. Wheat's leadership was a very big contribution to that success and he should be honored accordingly.

Let's get some comments going....Should Wheat have his number retired?

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