Rookie Photo Shoot: Close-up on Jared Dudley
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- Jared Dudley is dropping 10-foot fallaways one after another. Next, he's floating soft baby hooks about an inch over the front of the rim. Dudley's form is flawless, and with no defender -- no one else even on the court -- all you hear is the squeak of the sneaker, the swish of the net and the thud of the ball against the polished court. Squeak, swish, thud. Over and over.
When Dudley starts tossing the ball off the backboard from the free-throw line and trying to throw down with cartoonish ferocity, the quiet rhythm of his previous drills is lost in the laughter and taunts of Nets rookie Sean Williams, Dudley's former teammate at Boston College, and Jermareo Davidson, Dudley's newest teammate on the Bobcats.
But Dudley himself is laughing even harder.
"E-mail me that one," Dudley yells to the photographer shooting his mock dunks. "I need to get that one on e-mail."
Dudley is one of 44 members of the 2007 NBA draft class spending the day at the Knicks' training facility, where Topps and Upper Deck have transformed the gym into about a dozen different photo studios.
Twenty-five of the 30 first-round picks are on hand -- No. 1 Greg Oden, No. 2 Kevin Durant and No. 3 Al Horford included -- and about half the second round is represented, as well.
Dudley, who was drafted 22nd by the Charlotte Bobcats after four years at Boston College, revels in the posing, smiling, jumping, dunking and flipping of no-look passes to assistants and interns as the cameras capture him from every available angle.
And in-between the sessions, he's getting a tiny taste of life as a pro basketball player. There are balls and jerseys to sign, interviews galore and, of course, plenty of "NBA Live" on the two Xboxes in the center of the gym.
While many see Dudley as an NBA sleeper, to be at the photo shoot by 9:30 a.m., Dudley was up at 8:15. He grabbed some breakfast and then found a seat in the back of the bus with Marcus Williams, the Spurs' second-round pick, and Durant (who he believes will be the Rookie of the Year: "Definitely. He's 6-9, most ready to play, most God-given talent, the most class").
Before heading into the gym to begin the shoot, the players met in the locker room to slip on their NBA uniforms for the first time, only to find that many of the unis were conspicuously missing numbers, including Dudley's.
"I'm a first-round guy," he says with faux indignation. "I should have a number. I need to talk to the Bobcats about that."
But his uniform concerns extend beyond the lack of a number. Dudley is more worried about the garish orange colors of the Bobcat unis.
"I don't know if anyone can look good in orange, but I'm going to try my best to look good in orange," he says.
Dudley, a 6-foot-7, 219-pound forward who was the ACC Player of the Year last season, still wants to shed a few more pounds, but not for fashion purposes.
"In the NBA," he says, "it's all about getting up and down the court."
That's why when lunch comes around and he shares a table with Taurean Green, Stephane Lasme, Julian Wright, Davidson and Williams, he remains committed to his diet and goes easy on the burger and hot dog buffet.
After lunch, many of the players' energy and enthusiasm has faded. They are still quick to sign autographs and continue to faithfully execute the photographers' directions, but the rigors of the long day are starting to show.
But Dudley remains animated. He is still talking a bit of smack over the Xbox, still signing, posing and smiling.
"You got to have fun with it," Dudley says. "It's your job. I like stuff like this, and now that I get paid for it, I love it even more."
By 2:30 p.m., Dudley has finished his final league interview. Several photo sessions are all that stand between him and a flight back home to San Diego, where he has spent only a limited amount of time since draft day. So, for a few more hours, it's Dudley dribbling in front of a green screen background ... Dudley squeezing the rock before a fake steel backdrop ... Dudley taking a knee with the ball (NBA logo out) like it's a senior portrait.
It's a little after 5:30 p.m. now, and on his way from one Upper Deck shoot to another, a young Topps employee offers Dudley a small, narrow box. He flips open the top and begins thumbing through the cards until he finally comes to his -- the inaugural 2007-08 Topps Jared Dudley rookie card.
It's a pose he has struck probably 100 times on this day -- a nice smile while holding the ball just under the "Charlotte" on the bright orange jersey -- perfectly masking the fact that his jersey has no number. He borrows a pen and quickly scribbles his signature just under the photo.
Someone comments on his nice signature, to which he responds, "I've been practicing it since the seventh grade."
Joshua Hammann is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He can be reached at email@example.com.