Pooh Jeter (pronounced Jeddar) is one of THE stories of the 2010-11 NBA season. The 26, almost 27-year-old rookie has toiled in the NBDL and European league since graduating from Portland in 2006. Listed at 5′-11″, Jeter is maybe 5′-8″ and by all accounts, his height is the primary reason it has taken him this long to find a home in the league. He is a player that has given it his all every year in summer league only to barely miss the cut and be forced to go abroad to chase his dream. This year is different. Pooh Jeter got his golden ticket and the Kings were the team to stamp it. His hard work and persistence has paid off. Working on the first year of a guaranteed two year deal, Jeter has made the roster and he will play. How much time he’ll get is still to be determined, but the Kings believe that Jeter can supply a change of pace coming off the bench, which they have been searching for since Bobby Jackson left the first time. Here is Pooh Jeter with The Purple Panjandrum:
TPP: This is your first shot to play in an official NBA game. I know that you have been trying to get to this point for years now, how does it feel to finally make it?
Pooh: I think I’m excited, but I’m more thankful. I’ve been thanking God and Jesus for putting me in this situation or having this in my story. Every summer that I have really prepared for the NBA, it just wasn’t my time. So I have to really put my trust in God and continue to work hard. Now that the opportunity is here, I have to take advantage of it. I have to show my teammates, my coach, the Maloofs, Geoff Petrie, Wayne Cooper that I would love them to pick up my team option (the second year of his two year deal is a team option).
TPP: How do you think you are going to fit in to this team?
Pooh: I think I’ll be able to bring speed and quickness and leadership. Coach Westphal and Coach Elie, they always tell me that is my weapon, so I have to continue to use that more.
TPP: We know that you are going to have issues defensively with bigger guys, how do you combat that?
Pooh: Really, I’ve been playing against big guys all of my life. It’s nothing different for me. People might see it differently but in the summer time or in Europe or in the pre-season, I’m not really playing people my size. I just have to continue to be tough and not just accept it. My teammates have my back though.
TPP: I’ve watched you out here a lot. You seem to have a more of a mid-range game than a long range game- not that you can’t hit from out there, but is the mid-range where you are comfortable?
Pooh: The mid-range is really my money, that’s my sweet spot. I shoot three’s but my mid-range- when Coach Carril and myself work, I shoot a lot of three’s. I can make them in practice and I have to continue to be ready to shoot out there, but mid-range is just me.
TPP: Sacramento has had a player like you before. Not Bobby Jackson, but Spud Webb. As a kid watching Spud, he had a tendency to try and work in the key but he more often than not just got pin balled around. Are you going to stay away from the key a little bit?
Pooh: No, not really. I have to get in the key more. I have to continue to get that foot in the paint because in this league, you can’t really touch so I have to continue to use my speed as an advantage. You know that everybody is a tree in this league but I’ve been talking to Beno a lot. So I have to do what Beno does and hit the mid-range, get contact and find people, but I have to get in that paint.
TPP: Has Beno been one of your mentors here?
Pooh: Of course. Beno, Francisco and definitely Bobby Jackson. I talk to everybody and you can learn something from everybody. Once you take that and continue to work, it’s going to come together.
TPP: I see you out here working long after everyone else has gone in. Is that something you are doing here to make this team or is that how you have always been?
Pooh: I’ve always been like that. I’m just out here after practice working. In Europe, I was doing that every day after practice and that prepared me for this moment I believe. I have to keep it up. It worked then so I can’t stop.
TPP: Who was your favorite player to play against in Europe?
Pooh: I would say Pablo Prigioni. He’s Argentinian and he’s the point guard for Real Madrid. Pick and roll situations, he is unstoppable. People would think Rubio, he’s pretty good and I like Navarro, but Prigioni because he is great at pick and rolls.
TPP: How did you like living in Europe?
Pooh: It was great. In the Ukraine, I had a driver and I stayed right next to TGI Fridays. Man, the Ukraine was nice and everywhere else I’ve been was nice too. It was a grind, but my experience in Europe was great. It was unbelievable to go around to just about every country and play basketball. And get paid great money and meet new people and try to learn new languages. It was great.
Pooh Jeter is a great story. His work ethic is undeniable and he has a smile a mile wide. It will be interesting to see how he performs at the NBA level and how much his size comes into play. So far in the pre-season, Jeter hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, averaging 6.7 points (38.1%) and 2.5 assists in 24 minutes a game, but he is a rookie. The Kings want to see him succeed, he wants to succeed and once the fans see him play, they too will want to see him succeed.