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    Default A.J. Price appreciates chance with Pacers

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    Jeff Rabjohns


    A.J. Price appreciates chance with Pacers

    He faced health issues, off-court mistake in college

    By Jeff Rabjohns

    As a second-round NBA draft pick, A.J. Price has a challenge to make the Indiana Pacers.

    But that's just a basketball challenge. He has faced far more.

    As a college freshman, he suffered a brain hemorrhage that threatened his life.

    Price had to sit out the next season after an arrest involving stolen laptop computers, an incident that strained his parents' marriage.

    In March 2008, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee before recovering to play his senior season and helping lead Connecticut to the Final Four.

    "It was very difficult. When I went through a lot of different things, there were times I wasn't sure I'd even have this opportunity to be drafted," said Price, taken by the Pacers with the 52nd pick Thursday night.

    "Every thing I went through, I wanted to bounce back. (Thursday) meant a lot for me, probably more than for a lot of other people."

    Price entered college as one of the most touted guards in the 2004 high school class, ranked with the likes of current NBA players Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry.

    In October of his freshman year, he was hospitalized. On his 18th birthday, he was on a respirator, and his parents, Tony and Inga, wondered whether their son would live.

    "It's your worst nightmare coming true, and you're actually living it," Tony Price said. "You're trying to stay calm and collected, but you're not sure what's going to happen at the end of the nightmare."

    Price was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal tangling of blood vessels in the brain. He was successfully treated with radiosurgery. He would live. He knew that. But play again? No one was certain.

    "I don't think I understood the blessing I had to still be alive," Price said. "I was kind of bitter about it. I wasn't going to be playing and there was no timetable.

    "I wasn't really in the right mind-set and that led to my laptop situation. I didn't go and steal anything, but I made the poor decision of trying to sell what I knew was stolen."

    His arrest came in August 2005 when stolen laptops were found in his room. He received probation, was suspended for the 2005-06 season and was out of school for a semester.

    During that time, his father made him work on a construction crew.

    "I was really (mad) at him," Tony said. "Other people were telling me to get through it, which we did. The reality of working, not playing at all and being out of school, he responded well to it.

    "He's showing people that was one incident and not what he's all about."

    Price saw what his actions did to his family, especially publicly. His dad acknowledges it took months for him to forgive his son.

    Price's parents work in the insurance industry in the New York area. Price was a prep basketball star, leading Amityville (N.Y.) High School to two state titles, averaging 28.5 points as a senior.

    His parents were respected professionals, his father a member of Penn's 1979 Final Four team.

    Now the heralded son was suspended from college, back home, his name making national news for all the wrong reasons.

    "When I got sent home and saw the pain on my mother's face and the embarrassment I caused the family name, I realized what I had at stake," Price said. "I vowed to my family that I would make amends, and I spent the next three years doing it."

    Price, who is one foreign language class short of a degree in political science, played three seasons without incident.

    For many basketball players, overcoming a torn ACL would be the main theme in a story of overcoming adversity. But for A.J. Price, that was the smallest hurdle.

    Additional Facts
    Scouting A.J. Price
    • Position: Point guard.
    • Size: 6-2, 181.
    • Skill package: Considered an outstanding on-court leader who understands the game and excels in the pick-and-roll, which is a major part of NBA offenses. Known for making big plays when needed. Was the Most Outstanding Player of the West Region in the 2009 NCAA Tournament in leading Connecticut to the Final Four. Shooting touch is a question; he hit 41 percent for his college career.
    • Numbers: Averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 assists and shot 41 percent as a senior.
    • What the Pacers like: "He is very good in the pick-and-roll. He keeps his head up, keeps the dribble low," team president Larry Bird said Friday. "He had a great run at the end of the season, played with great players, and Connecticut plays against great competition. We're looking forward to getting him in here and seeing what he's all about."
    • Worth knowing: His father, Tony, played on Penn's 1979 Final Four team.


    I'm interested in seeing him in the preseason. If he's better than Diener, this was a win.

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