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McLeod also worked to improve his jumping last summer, wearing specially designed shoes that forced him to walk on tiptoe, strengthening his calves and Achilles. His vertical jump increased from 34 inches to 37 inches.
When Bowling Green played at Buffalo three weeks ago, a Bulls fan loudly proclaimed during the first half that McLeod was destined to play in the CBA In the second half, around the time McLeod scored his 30th point, the student stood and screamed that maybe McLeod could make some money playing in Europe. At the end of the game, after McLeod had scored his career-high 42nd and final point in Bowling Green's 85-73 win, the dejected student declared, "O.K., McLeod, you're going to the NBA developmental league."
Fresno's Ely Bounces Back
For someone who's arguably the most dominant college center, Melvin Ely has gone largely unnoticed—or at least his contributions have. The 6'10", 260-pound Ely returned for his senior year at Fresno State and led the Bulldogs to a 7-1 start and a No. 21 ranking. However, the NCAA suspended him for six games between Nov. 30 and Dec. 27 for having received an improper benefit from an agent. The Bulldogs went 3-3 without Ely and dropped out of the polls. Since his return on Dec. 29, Ely has put up eye-popping statistics—through Sunday he was averaging 24.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3-8 blocks—but because he'd played in less than 75% of his team's games, he wasn't included in the NCAA's statistical rankings.
Regardless, the Bulldogs were 6-2 since Ely's return and had moved into a third-place tie in the WAC (with a 6-3 record, 14-7 overall). Moreover, his days of toiling in obscurity appeared to be numbered. At his current pace, on Feb. 11 he'll be ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring and blocks. (His averages through Sunday would have placed him fourth and fifth, respectively.)
Ely has thrived while playing with a chip on his shoulder. "I'm still bitter about the situation with the NCAA," he says. "I play my hardest to get back at everyone who's trying to hurt this program."
The NCAA suspended Ely after Nate Cebrun—a representative of the Las Vegas-based Franchise Sports agency during parts of 2000 and 2001—claimed that last spring Ely had stayed in a Vegas hotel room paid for by Cebrun. (Ely denied the allegation, saying it was his Fresno State roommate Cody Castleman who had used the room.) Cebrun says he came forward with the information about Ely after agreeing to cooperate with the NCAA as part of a plea bargain in an unrelated case. (Last April, after being charged with violating Alabama's sports-agent law, Cebrun pleaded guilty to reduced charges of interfering with a lawful business in 2000, when his activities cost Auburn the services of star forward Chris Porter.)
In his first game back after completing the suspension, Ely equaled his career high, scoring 29 points in an 80-68 defeat of San Jose State. In each of his next two outings he set personal bests, scoring 31 against Rice and 35 against Tulsa. He has always been a superb defender—he broke the Bulldogs' career-blocks record as a sophomore and last season was named WAC player of the year—and his scoring average has increased each season, from 11.2 as a freshman to 13.3 as a sophomore to 15.8 last year. His improvement this season is attributable in part to his busy summer, spent working out with his older brother, Louis, a former Wisconsin forward; playing pickup games in his native Chicago against NBA stars like Michael Finley, Juwan Howard and Michael Jordan; and playing for the U.S. bronze medal team at the World University Games in China.
As he sat out his suspension, Ely grew so frustrated that he contemplated leaving school. By staying, he has significantly improved his pro prospects. "I'd be shocked if he didn't go in the first round," says one NBA scout."
For complete scores and stats, plus more from Seth Davis and Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.