SpongeBob-loving Beasley has big game, even bigger laughs Print
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Thursday, 17 January 2008 09:49
NCAAB Headline News


 MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Take it back to the beginning, all the way to the womb. The kid is two weeks late, probably laughing from inside his mother while everyone waits for him to come out. When he does, it's at a whopping 10 pounds, 9 ounces and 23 inches long.
Flash forward five years. The kid is angry after a classmate pokes him with a pencil. He retaliates, cuts off one of her pigtails with scissors when the teacher isn't looking. No one else finds it funny. He gets suspended. From kindergarten.
Take it ahead a few more years. The kid is sick of looking at his grandmother's dentures soaking in water, so he hides them. They know he did it, that crooked little snarl at the corner of his mouth giving it away. Problem is, the kid doesn't remember where he hid the dentures. Unable to go to work for days, grandma walks around the house with no teeth, the kid snickering behind her back.
Bring it to the present. The kid sits in Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum, eyes darting with mischief, that little snarl creasing his lip. Someone is going to get it. He won't say who or where. He just looks around the building, wringing his hands like a mad scientist as he thinks about his latest prank.
Michael Beasley is one of the best players in college basketball, a game-altering freshman force, a surefire top-10 NBA pick when he comes out, whether it's after this season or in four years. He's also a big kid in an oversized body, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound bundle of can't-sit-still vitality, a SpongeBob-loving 19-year-old prankster who'll do almost anything for a laugh - even if it gets him into trouble.
``I have a hard time standing still sometimes,'' Beasley says, hands fidgeting, eyes bouncing around the room. ``I've got to move, got to do something. Something's got to happen to keep my attention. It's just me trying to entertain myself.''
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Fatima Smith was thankful when her Lil' Mike started playing organized basketball.
A single mother of five, Smith rarely got time to herself and Lil' Mike was always horsing around, tormenting the other kids with his pranks.
mily had rented.
Basketball meant 13-year-old Lil' Mike would head out on the road with his team, giving his family an occasional respite from his antics.
``It was a way to get him out of my hair, not have to worry about his pranks, bothering the other siblings,'' Smith said.
Not that Lil' Mike's hijinks really bothered people - at least those who knew him. He rarely did anything malicious, always smiling as he plunged the needle, fessing up with a sheepish grin whenever he'd been caught.
The problems always came from those who didn't know Lil' Mike, the substitute teachers or administrators at new schools who mistook his good-natured shenanigans for disrespectful behavior.
It led to plenty of friction during Lil' Mike's teen years, sending him to seven schools in five years. That included a stint at basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, where he was asked not to come back after he and a teammate bet who could sign his name in black marker on the most objects in the school.
``It was one thing after the next,'' Smith says. ``What may seem annoying to one person; it's something where if you know Michael, you know he doesn't mean anything by it. And thank God his pranks and actions aren't malicious. Yeah, he shouldn't be writing on teacher's cars and those are things we're working on.''
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Frank Martin remembers the first time he saw Beasley play.
It was a couple of years ago at an AAU game and Martin, then an assistant under Bob Huggins at Cincinnati, was impressed by Beasley's size and agility, the way he effortlessly gathered in rebounds by the bunches. But what really caught Martin's attention was Beasley's hands, those massive mitts snaring everything that came near him.
Martin nearly didn't get the chance to coach Beasley when Huggins bolted for West Virginia after a year as Kansas State's coach. After mulling it over briefly, Beasley stuck with his decision to attend Kansas State, partly because he had signed a contract, but also because Wildcats assistant coach Dalonte Hill - his former AAU coach - was still there.
Beasley's decision gives Martin, now the Wildcats' first-year head coach, a foundation for the future. Along with athletic redshirt freshman Bill Walker, Beasley provides the kind of national exposure Kansas State needs to keep up with traditional powerhouses like Kansas, North Carolina and Duke in the recruiting trenches.
``It's huge, not just because of who he is as a basketball player, but because he's a good kid,'' Martin said. ``You want to coach good people. That's what allows us to move forward as coaches and I don't mean better jobs, just allows our basketball team to keep winning.''
Martin knows he should enjoy Beasley while he can.
Though he has said he wants to stay four years, there have been subtle hints Beasley might bolt for the NBA early, particularly if he's the top pick, as some have predicted.
And the riches of the NBA might be hard to pass up.
Powerfully built, yet so velvety smooth it appears as if he's not trying, Beasley can knock down 3-pointers - 35 percent through the first 15 games - and mix it up inside, averaging a nation-best 13.3 rebounds. The left-hander had 32 points and a Big 12 conference-record 24 rebounds in his first college game and is currently fifth in the country at 24.3 points per game.
``He is a man,'' Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said after Beasley had 25 points and 10 rebounds in Kansas State's 85-25 victory on Jan. 7. ``You look at LeBron James when he came out of high school, he was a man and Beasley is a man.''
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Even so, the kid is not going away anytime soon.
No matter the size of his body or his game, Lil' Mike is still in there, looking for a laugh, pushing to pull off the next great prank.
Not long ago, he and Walker called Smith from an unlisted number, dialing over and over until she finally picked up. Once she did, no one was there. She looked over at the two overgrown kids and saw them snickering, the phone face down on the table.
Then there's the fascination with SpongeBob Squarepants.
Beasley loves the cartoon, recording it every afternoon so he can watch it after practice. He's decorated his dorm room with everything SpongeBob, from pillows and a comforter to the bath rug and towels, and used to win dunk contests wearing a SpongeBob hat.
``We look alike - we're both yellow - and he's funny,'' Beasley says with a chuckle. ``SpongeBob is universal. You could go from 2 all the way to 90. SpongeBob is funny to everybody.''
But there have been changes, a newfound maturity offsetting a fondness for Bugs Bunny-style pranks and a cartoon sponge who lives in an underwater pineapple.
Perhaps it's from living on his own for the first time (Smith moved the entire family just down the street, but Beasley's still on his own most of the time) or maybe it's just the natural progression of life, maturity imposing itself.
Whatever it is, there's been a noticeable difference in Beasley the short time he's been in Manhattan.
``Mike has embraced the whole college experience, he's really embraced it,'' Martin said. ``People expecting him to act like a young man, he's embraced that. Just being around older people and more mature people has really allowed him to move forward in that department.''
Still, there are times he just can't help himself, when Lil' Mike takes over and that little snarl returns. Like his latest line of pranks, which he's particularly coy about.
``You can't tell nobody because there's some stuff that's going to go down around here,'' Beasley says, a twinkle in his eye as he looks around Bramlage. ``I already set some stuff up. It's going to happen and they won't know. I'm just going to sit back and watch and laugh. Nobody knows but me. It's going to be my own joke. I'm just going to sit back and get a kick out of it.''
And, as usually is the case, the kid will get the last laugh.
 

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