Cole Aldrich was a McDonald’s All-American averaging a ridiculous 23 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks per game as a high school senior. However, when Aldrich arrived at Kansas he came to a team that was already full of talent. The Jayhawks had Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, and Darnell Jackson. Because of the loaded roster, Aldrich saw few minutes his freshman year when the Jayhawks won the National Championship, beating Derrick Rose and the Memphis Tigers.
Once those talented players either graduated, or took their talents to the NBA early, things opened up for Aldrich. Soon he was seeing more touches, but still wasn’t the teams most active scorer despite increasing his average points per night to 15. Following his sophomore season many thought he was ready for the NBA, but Aldrich decided to remain at Kansas and continue his improvement. Although his points and rebound totals fell, he increased his shot blocking and steals per game, and across the board solidified his position in the lottery, although he may have lowered his ceiling.
Doing the dirty work has always been a part of Aldrich’s life, even if that doesn’t lead to highlight dunks and jaw dropping athleticism. Growing up the son of a United States Marine, Aldrich was disciplined at a young age. He was always taught that things aren’t handed to you in life; you must go out and earn them, which is exactly what Aldrich has done.
Aldrich has always been a scrappy player, once chipping his tooth against instate rival Kansas State and later losing it for good soon after in practice. Everyone has seen the image of him toothless, or the pre-draft interview where he removes and replaces his tooth in rapid succession in front of dozens of reporters. In addition to his upbringing, Aldrich’s scrappy play and intensity may be attributed to a gift he was given as a young boy. Growing up, Aldrich always wanted a Dennis Rodman jersey, so one day his mother bought him one. That jersey may have been the inspiration that took Aldrich to new heights.
Aldrich’s hard work up to this point has paid off as he was recently selected with the 11th pick overall by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2010 NBA Draft. Soon after hearing his name called Aldrich was changing his cap to that of the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder, where he now looks to make an impact. The young Thunder team can certainly use a banger down low, as franchise player Kevin Durant and company handle the scoring. With the Thunder lacking game changing bigmen (they currently only have Byron Mullens, Nick Collison, and Nenad Kristic at Center), look for Aldrich to get significant playing time.
For a great article on Cole Aldrich, be sure to check out “Thunder rookie center Cole Aldrich brings a blue-collar approach to basketball” by Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.