Look Out Below: The Hakim Warrick Story

Hakim Warrick’s love of dunking came from unconventional beginnings. His first throw-down was not on a hoop, but on monkey bars.

“The older guys wouldn’t let us on the court so me and my friends used to go over and play basketball on the monkey bars,” Warrick once said. “That’s when I first started dunking and everything.”

His first dunk on a rim came in the summer before his sophomore year of High School and he’s been flushing it ever since.

“They say it’s just two points but I think it’s more than that,” Warrick said during his college days at Syracuse. “It gets the crowd into it, gets teammates into it. It just brings energy and a tone to the game. … And for the other team, it can be intimidating.”

Melbourne United is expecting exactly that kind of energy and intimidation from Warrick, having announced today they have signed the 8-year NBA veteran to replace Ekene Ibekwe. Losing an import a week out from the Blitz can never be a good thing right? Wrong. This is a major turn of events for United and one that could change the NBL landscape this season.

Melbourne’s CEO Vince Crivelli has made no secret of what sort of player he’s coveted to pair with stretch big Daniel Kickert up front; an athlete who can roll hard and finish at the rim, rebound and block shots.

In that regard, Crivelli may have struck gold with Warrick. The former Orangeman and NBA Dunk Comp contestant may be one of the most athletic big men to grace our shores since the likes of Leon Trimmingham, Bennett Davison and James Crawford.

. Hakim Warrick

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Not only does he have a huge leap, but he gets off the ground as quickly as a contestant in a chilli eating contest. Even now, at 33, he can explode to the rim in a hurry ….

Warrick spent 4 years at Syracuse and was a member of the 2003 National Championship Team with Carmelo Anthony. He played a big role on that team, but made no bigger play than blocking Kansas’ Michael Lee as he attempted a game-tying three pointer.

It was a game-saver and is remembered as one of the most important blocks in NCAA history.

“I just remember looking to the corner, seeing Michael Lee wide open, and thinking, ‘No way’,” recalled Warrick in a Players’ Tribune piece he penned in March.

“I didn’t think I had any chance of blocking it. I was still under the basket, a good 20 feet away, and he was at the three-point line … But as I got closer, I realized I made up a lot of ground in just a couple of steps, so in that split-second, I went from thinking I’d never get there to leaping for the ball and trying to avoid fouling him on the follow-through. I got all ball.”

Still, as famous as that block is, Warrick has never been a volume shot-blocker. He never averaged more than half a block per game in 8 years in the NBA and couldn’t crack 1 per game in his year in China in 2013/14. But, that’s not to say that he doesn’t hold his own defensively.

His athleticism and impressive 7’2” wingspan, allow him to challenge a lot of shots (and block some), while his agility enables him to guard from the perimeter. He’s never been foul prone, which will hold him in good stead in 40-minute games with a 5 foul limit.

Warrick was always considered a little light or thin (if you prefer) to guard opposing power forwards in the NBA, but at 99kg (just above the league average of 98.8kg) he should be able to hold his own against NBL opponents. He’ll match up with the likes of Anthony Petrie, Mika Vukona, Matt Knight, Tom Garlepp and reigning MVP Brian Conklin, and while most of those guys will have a weight advantage on him, he has a height, length and athleticism advantage on them all.

United’s Daniel Kickert picks and pops, spots up and occasionally works from the right block, but most of the time you’ll find him on the perimeter. That will suit Warrick just fine. He prefers to operate close to the rim looking for cheap buckets on cuts, lobs and the offensive glass, while also possessing a solid, if not spectacular post-game.

Essentially, Warrick will likely defend the four but operate offensively like a more traditional five-man.

Warrick does tend to fall in love with the mid-range jump shot at times, but you’d have to think with Holt, Goulding, Blanchfield and Kickert around him, Head Coach Dean Demopoulos will not tolerate that for very long.

No, Demopoulos will run plays for Warrick primarily in the pick and roll, where he excels at rolling to the basket quickly. His agility, length and athleticism make him difficult to stop. Of course when you spend your formative years setting picks for Steve Nash, the rolling part comes a little easier.

Warrick does an excellent job of rolling into space and then attacking the rim with his long arms as soon as he catches the ball, and still did in Turkey last season.

Stephen Holt, United’s new import point guard, is very comfortable in pick and roll settings, as are Goulding and Nate Tomlinson, so this will be a weapon Demopoulos will look to exploit. Run Josh Childress’ ferocious attack on Charles Jackson through your mind; that’s how Warrick will take it to opposing centres on a nightly basis.

Last year, he spent the season in Turkey playing for Torku Konyaspor where he averaged 17.6 points and 7.7 rebounds on .558 FG% and a respectable .727 FT% in 27 minutes per game. Whilst not a Euroleague team, he was going against the likes of Dario Saric (Anadolu Efes), Hilton Armstrong (Besiktas), Emir Preldzic (Fenerbahce Ulker), and Patric Young (Galatasaray).

Warrick now brings his game to the newly launched NBL and will look to showcase his talent and experience in a bid for one final shot at another NBA contract.

“My friend Josh Childress has told me great things about the NBL, so to get the opportunity to come to a city like Melbourne and be part of a Championship push is something I’m going to relish,” Warrick said earlier today.

“I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates and getting down to work immediately.”

NBL fans are in for a treat with Warrick. It’s not often that a player with his kind of basketball CV comes here to play, but it is becoming more frequent.

United now have a formidable line-up, capable of hurting opponents in a variety of ways. Warrick makes them faster, more athletic and gives them a starting unit where all five players are capable of scoring 20 points on any given night. That’s tough to defend and instantly catapults them back into the contender conversation in what is set to be a ridiculously competitive league.

Hakim Warrick prefers to do his dunking on a basketball ring these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten where he came from.

Kids in local Aussie playgrounds beware.

Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball

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