Keith Brumbaugh making the most of second (and third) chance
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. -- He lays on the floor, stretching every one of those Mr. Incredible limbs oh so carefully before a workout on an early May morning. The good lord didn't waste an ounce of flesh on Keith Brumbaugh. He is 81 inches of skin stretched over muscle and bone. As he pulls his right arm across his body to stretch his tricep, the tattoo on his bicep jumps off his skin. Around a pair of clasped hands are four words: PRAY FOR BETTER DAYS.
In several of the stories written about Brumbaugh since 2005, a description of that tattoo appears near the top. That's because in almost every jurisdiction in the state of Florida, the standard charging affidavit contains a section cataloguing a suspect's scars, marks and tattoos. It seems as if that's how Brumbaugh's life was catalogued in the years after his aborted 2005 attempt to jump from DeLand (Fla.) High to the NBA -- with arrest reports, charging affidavits and two-paragraph police blotter entries. But as he prepares for his second attempt at the NBA, Brumbaugh wouldn't trade those two years for anything.
As trainer Scott Savor put Brumbaugh through a workout last month, Brumbaugh doesn't look like he spent two years away from organized basketball. The southpaw drains jumpers, dunks without remorse and shows off the left hand that made him only the second high-schooler to serve as a counselor at Michael Jordan's camp. The other? LeBron James. Near the end of the workout, Savor orders a drill called "Total Domination." Savor calls the name of a player, and Brumbaugh must impersonate how that player would win a game at the buzzer. Savor yells "Tim Duncan," and Brumbaugh banks in a 16-footer high off the glass. Savor yells "John Stockton," and Brumbaugh fakes a bounce pass before hitting a jumper from the elbow. Savor yells "Tony Parker," and Brumbaugh slices into the lane and drops in a floater.
In October 2006, as Brumbaugh sat in a jail cell in a tiny town in Florida's Panhandle, he dreamed of days like this. "I'm the type of person that if I can see something in the future, wherever I'm at right now is not that bad," he said. "When I'm sitting here in a s--- hole and you're telling me that my future isn't even bright ... You just cry yourself to sleep at night."
Now that he has emerged on the other side, Brumbaugh -- who last winter proved he had the skill that led him to consider the NBA in the first place by averaging 36.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 4.8 steals at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa -- hopes his past won't cost him another shot at the NBA. In an interview after his workout, he answered every question. He did the same at last month's pre-draft camp in Orlando.
What NBA teams likely saw in Brumbaugh was a witty, whip-smart 22-year-old with a gift for introspection and an ability to put a stranger at ease with a tap of his hand or a smile that melts into his miniature mutton-chop sideburns until it seems he really is grinning from ear to ear. But, given his odd career path and considerable baggage, will they consider him a future NBA player?
Brumbaugh seems confident some team will take a chance on a 6-foot-9 lefty shooting guard with three-point range and excellent court vision. Reviews were mixed after the pre-draft camp; Brumbaugh earned praise for his skill set, but his basketball I.Q., shot selection and wingspan drew criticism. "I didn't play how I wanted to," Brumbaugh said this week.
Since the camp, Brumbaugh has worked out for the Pistons and Hornets, and he hopes to schedule workouts with the Lakers and Celtics before the draft. After Brumbaugh's workout in New Orleans on June 12 -- which also included North Carolina star Wayne Ellington -- Hornets coach Byron Scott told The Times-Picayune that Brumbaugh had an unorthodox style, but the coach was intrigued with Brumbaugh's scoring ability. Unless several teams take a sudden interest between now and the draft and drive up his stock, Brumbaugh might be a late second-round pick, or he might go undrafted. If he isn't drafted, several teams likely will offer free-agent deals. After all, 6-9 lefty shooting guards don't grow on trees. And while Brumbaugh would love to hear his name called next week, all he really wants is a chance to prove himself. "As long as I'm playing on a summer league team," he said, "I'm straight."