Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The many sides of Wendell McKines

We don't even want a finder's fee -- just having it happen would be enough. 'It' being former New Mexico State star Wendell McKines, once his playing days are over, taking over the chair of Charles Barkley (he has to retire some time, right?) in performing NBA and college basketball television analysis. Talk about a merger of opportunity and talent.

That's something suggested to McKines during a recent interview with him. Let's just say he was amenable to such a step.

Currently playing for the SPO Rouen Basket, members of the Ligue National de Basketball in France, McKines is represented by the Bay Area-based Pensack Sports Management Group.

He was named the Player of the Month for February and McKines is performing quite well in March too so a second award could be in the offing.

What confounds some, especially those in and around Logan, Utah, is he and former Utah Stater Tai Wesley have paired up in Rouen as teammates. This, after mixed martial arts battles during their respective days in the Western Athletic Conference.

As McKines described his collegiate mano-a-mano minuets with Wesley: "I hated him and he hated me but we always respected each other's playing."

Plus, both had an inkling once it became known that the enemies would be pairing up -- "We knew we would play well together."

That they have.

In McKines' league, the top eight teams make the playoffs and SPO Rouen Basket is currently sixth in those rankings.

What has helped in his transition overseas is his wife and child are with him.

"They came over a couple of weeks after I got here," McKines explained. His team has supplied them with a car and a two bedroom apartment. SPO Rouen Basket also has a translator for basketball games and practices but some things are universal.

As McKines said, "you pick up key words as time goes on."

Asked about his toughest individual college opponents, he named Tai Wesley and former Nevada star Luke Babbitt.

With the former, "anytime a shot went up he faced guarded me and boxed me out." It was as if Wesley had but one task in their matchups and that was use a laser-like focus to stop McKines.

 It was different with Babbit.

"He's a legitimate 6-foot-9, lefthanded and he got quicker off the floor and added ruggedness his sophomore year," McKines recalled.

Regarding his time in Las Cruces, which included Big Dancin' in 2010 against Michigan State in a No. 12-seed/No. 5 seed pairing that involved a controversial late call which led to a Spartan 70-67 victory, he has a soft spot in his heart for Coach Marvin Menzies.

"He's my guy," McKines said. "Going into Las Cruces, I was fresh out of Richmond and raw. He let me learn from my mistakes and let me become a man. He helped me a lot as a person." 

McKines' game has also continued to develop. 

"I'm more balanced, with more finesse and I'm a lot more fluid with my shot. I can make more moves on the court."

But off the court, there's a side of McKines that shouldn't but would probably take some by surprise.

To a query about his child playing basketball, he responded, "I didn't have a choice. If up to me, I'm pushing becoming a doctor, a teacher or an entrepreneur."

He is also reflective and philosophical, someone who has witnessed a lot despite his youth and given a great deal of thought to his experiences.

"I take life really seriously. Every breath every day is a blessing. I really focus on being positive because a lot of kids in my community grow up not really cherishing life."

McKines continued with his counsel: "It's not all about fun. Do the hard things so that your life can be easier in the long run. Listen to people who care about you -- listen, listen, listen. You don't know everything as a teenager."

Asked what he would offer as recruiting advice to up-and-coming athletes, he said, "School should be your #1 priority. Take care of your responsibilities and listen to the people who have your best interests in mind."

He remains in contact with fellow Bay Area basketball stars. Among them are Tim Pierce, Drew Gordon, Diamon Simpson, Justin Graham, Frank Otis, Adrian Oliver, Quentin Thomas -- "I have a nice network of friends."

Posed with the question of how his friends would describe him, he tendered this label defying treasure: "it depends on the day. One day, I'm Wendell, the next day it's Wens-day. I don't want to be figured out."

McKines is bound for big things post-basketball. He is a man of many facets who to this day is inexplicably under-the-radar to many, but not for long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome update - McKines is one of a kind. Glad to hear he's doing well and improving his game.