Saturday, October 16, 2021

Deane has shooters touch

January 16, 2002

In Purdue’s basketball media guide, Willie Deanes lists his favorite film as “When We Were Kings” - a documentary about Muhammad Ali’s 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman.

Despite the recent Hollywood release of “Ali,” the Big Ten’s leading scorer hasn’t shifted his allegiance.

“When We Were Kings’ is still my favorite movie,” Deane, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior guard said. “But Will Smith did a good job.”

Deane lists Ali as his favorite nonbasketball athlete because he admires his determination.

That same drive resides within Deane.

“A lot of things people said I couldn’t do,” Deane said. “Such as play collegiately.”

While Deane already has proven his opponents wrong on the court, averaging 18.3 points per game this season, he’s also trying to prove them wrong in the classroom as a math major.

“Most people think I’m crazy,” Deane said. “A lot of people are surprised because with all the time we put in on the basketball court, they don’t think that I have time for books as well.”

Those math skills have come in handy on the court too, Deane said.

“I just like working with numbers,” he said. “Math processing is all about thinking about certain situations. You can relate it to the basketball court with time and score and two-for-one situations.”

Deane still didn’t pick Purdue just for its mathematics. It wasn’t even his first choice. After his father, a General Electric Co. employee, was transferred two years ago, Deane transferred from Boston College.

While his offensive explosion has been a pleasant surprise, Deane still needs to improve on his defense, Purdue head coach Gene Keady said.

“We don’t take pride in our defense,” Keady said. “So until we all take pride in our defense, his offense isn’t a factor because we don’t win.

“He feels that way, too. He’s a good kid, he wants to win. So if he scores 30 points, he’s not happy if we get beat. So it’s a frustrating feeling for everybody.”

But that feeling can’t compare to the way Deane felt on Sept. 11. A native of Schenectady, NY, Deane lived with his grandfather in Manhattan for a year and has friends and family in the city.

“It was really depressing,” Deane said. “I have a cousin who worked in the building. Fortunately he called in sick to work that day.”

Deane’s memories at Breslin Center are cause for concern among Spartan fans. Last year Deane scored 20 points at MSU, including a 6-of-8 performance from the three-point line.

In addition to his long-range shooting, the Spartans will have to guard against his ability to drive the lane, MSU assistant coach Mike Garland said.

“Willie Deane is probably one of the finest one-on-one players in the conference,” Garland said. “They do a lot of things to open the court up and clear a side out for him.

“We cannot allow Willie to break us down, we just cannot do it.”

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