Wednesday , Jul , 06 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Simien ready to contribute

(Sports Network) – The Miami Heat had to feel very fortunate that Kansas
forward Wayne Simien was available when they selected him with the 29th
overall pick in this year’s draft.

Miami had one of its best seasons in franchise history, as it compiled an
impressive 59-23 record during the regular season and came within one game of
advancing to its first NBA Finals. The Heat fell in seven games to the Detroit
Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals.

With their only pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Heat picked Simien, who spent
four years playing for the Jayhawks. He averaged 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds
in 106 games at Kansas. The 6-9 forward improved his game during his years at
college and showed that he had what it took to take his game to the next
level.

All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade are the cornerstones of the Heat
franchise. O’Neal is still, arguably, the most dominant player in the league,
while Wade shined in his second year in the league and appears to be headed
for superstardom. Simien is joining a club that is established and one that
will allow him to continue to grow as a player.

Is Simien ready to step in an contribute right away?

“I really think I am,” said Simien. “My four-year tenure at the University of
Kansas, playing under two great coaches and two great systems and being able
to thrive in both and playing against top-quality college competition night in
and night out, I feel has definitely prepared me to step up in any type of
role that the coaching staff asks.”

Getting drafted by one of the top teams in the East is a win-win situation for
both the Heat and Simien. Miami is getting a player who spent four productive
years at one of the top college basketball programs, while Simien becomes a
member of a squad that does not need him to be a savior.

Simien could have gambled and entered the draft a year ago. He still may have
been a first-round pick, but it was not a definite.

“It was something I considered very briefly,” said Simien about entering the
draft last year. “Weighing the pros and cons, there were more reasons to stay
than to go. I was close to getting my degree, which I did this May in
Sociology. It was coming back to a great core group of guys, specifically my
senior class, having a legitimate shot to win the Big 12 championship and make
a run for the NCAA championship. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted, as far
as the NCAA championship goes, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for
anything.”

Udonis Haslem is the starting power forward for the Heat. The 25-year-old
Florida product had an impressive showing in his second season in the league.
He played 80 contests and averaged 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in the 2004-05
campaign. Haslem, who averaged just over 33 minutes of action per game, is a
solid player, but there is definitely some minutes available for Simien to
earn.

With O’Neal and Wade leading the way for the Heat, Simien will be able to
continue to develop his game. The Kansas product is a solid player who has the
ability to help Miami right away. He won’t put up big numbers in rebounding
and scoring immediately, but he can be productive in his rookie season.

The Heat were lucky to get a player like Simien with the 29th overall pick.

MIA