The Trials and Tribulations of Mark Blount

Former University of Pittsburgh center 7-0, 255 Mark Blount, now with the Boston Celtics, recently enjoyed the best game of his career. Blount had 28 points, and 21 rebounds against the Orlando Magic. On the season Blount is averaging 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. By no means are these all-star type statistics, but they are an example of Blount's perseverance to make it in the NBA.

If one were to say Blount has had a whirlwind journey through his basketball career, it would definitely be an understatement. During his prep days Blount played on seven different teams, including a brief stay at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. There were rumors that while there he had dealings with an agent; the rumors were never founded. The Yonkers, NY native then surfaced at Dobbs Ferry high school in New York.

In 1995 Blount was establishing himself as one of the elite centers in the nation. The University of Pittsburgh and former head coach Ralph Willard was putting together one of the nation's premier recruiting classes. Although 7' feet tall, Blount was a very gangly 215 pounds, yet the Panthers went after and signed Mark. Ralph Willard brought in guards Vonteego Cummings, Kelli Taylor, Michael Gill, forward Andre Howard and Blount. The class was ranked by every scouting service in the nation as a top 10 class. It was thought to be the class that would turn the program around.

By the end of the 1996 season Pittsburgh managed to win 18 games and went on to the NIT tournament and defeated New Orleans in the first round, but were knocked out in the 2nd by Nolan Richardson and the Arkansas Razorbacks. After the season the class that had so much hope turned into the most disappointing class in the history of Pittsburgh basketball.

After the 1996-1997 season the sophomore Blount decided to turn pro, a decision that most involved with the program tried to talk him out of, but failed. Kelli Taylor, once a very gifted defensive player, battled alcohol addiction and never fulfilled his potential. Michael Gill transferred to the University of California at Berkeley. Andre Howard transferred to St. Joseph's. The only player who stayed and lived up to the hype that was cast upon this class was Vonteego Cummings. Cummings turned into one of the best players in the Big East conference and the nation. At the end of his collegiate career Vonteego was selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

The going was not so easy for Blount; the Seattle Super Sonics selected him in the 2nd round of the 1997 NBA draft. Blount was the 55th overall selection. However, he was waived before he ever played a game for Seattle. During the same year Blount was drafted in the 5th round of the CBA draft also. Blount played in 5 games for the Yakima Sun Kings. During the summer of 1998, Mark played in the USBL for the Atlantic City Seagulls.

In 1999 Blount caught on with the IBL and the Baltimore Bay Runners franchise. The NBA's Los Angeles Clippers were impressed enough to sign Mark to a contract. The celebration was short lived however as Blount was released after 9 games. The 2000 season would be the final time Blount would play minor league basketball; he played for the USBL and the New Jersey Shore Cats.

Finally, in the fall of 2000, Blount caught on with the Boston Celtics of the NBA. As a rookie Blount blocked 76 shots, the most by a Celtic rookie since Kevin McHale. The following season Mark signed with the Denver Nuggets where he averaged 2.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, while seeing almost 10 minutes of action a game. Then on February 20, 2003 Mark Blount, along with teammate Mark Bryant, were traded to the Boston Celtics for Shammond Williams, a 2nd round draft pick, and cash considerations.

The trade was perhaps the best thing that could've happened for Mark. He started this season splitting time with fellow big men, Tony Battie, Vin Baker, and Eric Williams. After an early season trade that saw Battie and Williams sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Vin Baker's release due to personal problems, Blount was now thrust into the starting spot. Now at a solid 255 pounds, Blount doesn't get pushed around in the low-post as much as he once did.

At 28 years of age, Blount is garnering league-wide respect as one of the more formidable centers in the Eastern Division of the NBA. Blount is now 8 years removed from his days at the University of Pittsburgh and is living up to his potential. He is putting his past mistakes behind him, and his new-found faith in God, coupled with an undeniable work ethic, have turned the one-time promising New York City prep star into one of the most imposing centers in the NBA.

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