Dampier must trade elbows with O’Neal

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 9, 2006

When muscular center Erick Dampier takes the floor tonight forthe Dallas Mavericks, his 6-foot-11, 265-pound body will tower overmany players in the NBA Finals. However, he’ll be looking up atMiami Heat behemoth superstar Shaquille O’Neal.

>Dampier’s strength and rebounding prowess will help theMavericks as they attempt to slow down the powerful O’Neal who tipsthe scales at 325 pounds (before lunch) and stands 7-foot-1.

Dampier will have a legion of followers in Mississippi,especially in Lawrence County, his home stomping grounds. A NewHebron native, Dampier starred for the Lawrence County Cougars whenthey won their first Class 4A state championship for Coach BobbyLee. He later signed with Mississippi State University, helpinglead the Bulldogs to the Final Four.

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The soft-spoken Dampier was drafted (10th pick) by the IndianaPacers in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft. He was traded tothe Golden State Warriors in 1997. After seven seasons on the WestCoast, Dampier was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on Aug. 24,2004.

He has labored in the shadows of other high-profile Dallas starslike Dirk Nowitzki. Dampier has performed well in the playoffs,averaging 4.7 points and 6 rebounds per game. He’s making 68percent of his free throws and 46 percent of his field goals in theplayoffs.

This is Dampier’s 10th year in the NBA. For sure, it feels goodto be playing for a title contender. Lucrative endorsementcontracts are available, especially to members of playoffteams.

He ranks No. 1 in the NBA in offensive rebounds (6.8) per 48minutes played. He had a career-high 26 rebounds versus the 76ersin 2005.

Dampier celebrates his 31st birthday July 14. Hopefully, he’llstill be celebrating an NBA championship with the Mavericks.

“A lot of folks still keep up with Damp,” said Monticello MayorDave Nichols. “They go see him play at Dallas, Memphis and NewOrleans.”

Dampier has a home in Jackson and conducts a basketball campevery summer for youngsters. He annually provides scholarships for12 campers from Lawrence County.

Kenyatta Coleman of Brookhaven is another local athlete who ismaking news on the national scene. The Ole Miss sophomore iscompeting in the NCAA nationals at Sacramento, Calif. thisweek.

Coleman is among nine Rebels in the competition. Her event isthe 400-meter dash. She is the school record holder in the indoor400 meters. She also advanced to the championships in the 400meters with a season-best time of 53.14 at the Mideast regional atKnoxville, Tenn. The prelims of the 400 meters will be held at 5:50p.m. today.

Ole Miss freshman Cachet Murray was also granted an at-large bidin the women’s 100 meter. She finished 10th in the Mideast regionalwith a time of 11.49.

Leading off for the Rebels will be senior long jumper MarquitaAldridge, who is competing in her fourth NCAA Championships. Shehad an outdoor best of 20-feet, 9.25 inches at the SECChampionships and finished third. She was 20-08.5 in the Mideastregional.

Aldridge will also compete as a member of the women’s4x100-meter relay team. The quartet of Aldridge, Kadeshia Fortune,Kim Mulkey and Murray earned a bid to the outdoor championships asan

at-large. The relay team finished sixth at the Mideast regionalwith a time of 44.82

The other Lady Rebel entry is Camia Carroll in the high jump.She cleared 5-9.2 and tied her personal best.

On the men’s side, Ole Miss freshman Barnabas Kirui turned in atime of 8:47.85 to finish second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase atthe Mideast regional. Sophomore John Yarbrough turned in a mark of13.97 in the men’s 110-meter hurdles to finish third. FreshmanDerek McGuire fell short of his own school record in the shot putwith a mark of 58-3 and finished fifth in the regional.

Ole Miss track coach Joe Walker has established a strong trackprogram at Ole Miss but it often becomes lost in the shadows offootball and baseball and basketball.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS, 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com