Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pittsnogle Ponders Rebound

Lure of Pro Ball Still Tugs at Pittsnogle
By John Branch
New York Times, January 15, 2009

Martinsburg, WV -- There is a middle school up the hill from the McDonald’s here, and behind it are several classroom trailers, the type that are added when space gets tight and are never taken away.

Kevin Pittsnogle has put aside his basketball career for a chance to help a high school team as an assistant coach and teach special education students in his hometown, Martinsburg, W.Va.

Inside one of the trailers last Friday stood a tall man with a familiar face. He wore a Bugs Bunny tie and a gray dress shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows. Tattoos spilled to his wrists. He spoke kindly to two of his special education students, who called him Mr. Pittsnogle.

On the inside of the door was a sign: “You are who you choose to be.”

For now, this is who Kevin Pittsnogle chooses to be.

Less than four years ago, he was a basketball star and a folk hero, a homegrown kid with a funny name, a bowl haircut, a 6-foot-11 frame covered in tattoos, and a baby-soft 3-point shot. During West Virginia’s unexpected thrill ride to the quarterfinals of the 2005 N.C.A.A. tournament, his name became a taunting verb: you’ve been Pittsnogled. His mother still has a box of the T-shirts in a closet.

Less than three years ago, Pittsnogle was an all-American senior averaging 19.3 points who led West Virginia to the 2006 regional semifinals. He expected to be chosen in the N.B.A draft. He was not.
. . .
As a player, Pittsnogle is a pure shooter whose body does not match his skills. Kelvin Sampson, then the coach at Oklahoma, once called him a “two-guard who grew to 6-11.” After college, Pittsnogle’s weight grew, too, by about 40 pounds, to 300.

“I kept hearing, ‘You’re overweight,’ ” Pittsnogle said. “ ‘You can average 20 points a game, but we’re not going to bring you up until you lose some weight.’ ”
. . .
But something happened on the way back to an ordinary life. Pittsnogle learned last fall that he had a thyroid condition that slowed his metabolism. It helped explain his fluctuating weight, long trending upward.

Medication has helped him lose 25 pounds and re-energize his playing hopes. He is pondering N.B.A. summer leagues, one last time.

“If I look the way I’m supposed to look, and play the way I’m supposed to play, I think I’ll get a chance,” Pittsnogle said. “If not, I’ll come back and live my life here.”
. . .

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