Jamaal Franklin’s West Coast SwaggerPosted by dnspewak on November 17th, 2012
Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. He filed this following San Diego State’s 60-44 victory over Missouri State in Springfield on Saturday.
Trotting up and down the floor like he owned the place, Jamaal Franklin’s mouth just kept moving. “I guess that’s what they do out on the West Coast,” Missouri State guard Anthony Downing said. Sometimes, the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year would flash a wry smile at nobody in particular. Other times, he’d stare blankly at the first row of fans at JQH Arena, where hecklers hollered at him and accused him of playing like a “thug” after referees called him for a flagrant foul on Keith Pickens.
By the time San Diego State put the finishing touches on a 60-44 victory over Missouri State on Saturday, all 7,272 fans at the “Q” booed Franklin every time he touched the ball. “West Coast snobs!” said one woman behind press row. The others exited the building silently — with vengeance, of course. They can hate Jamaal Franklin all they want in Springfield, but it won’t change the box score. Twenty-two points. Twelve rebounds. Three blocks. Three steals. All part of another victory for his 25th-ranked Aztecs. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Bears’ coach Paul Lusk said. But for anybody who has seen Franklin play before, it wasn’t eye-opening in the least. Like the rest of his team, which missed its first 10 three-point attempts and shot 32 percent from the field, the versatile 6’5’’ wing wasn’t perfect. He turned the ball over seven times, misfired on six of seven three-point attempts and never exactly found his stroke offensively. Yet Franklin still managed to tally a double-double and turn in a stellar defensive performance.
Statistics aside, though, there’s a more important aspect to Franklin’s style of play. It’s the aspect that drives everything he does on the floor, and it’s why he’s one of the better wings in college basketball. It’s his swagger. He knows it, too. In the postgame press conference, Franklin hardly seemed like the same guy who jawed at his defender on every possession. He was mild-mannered, down-to-earth, even reflective. And when somebody asked him how his team shot 32 percent from the floor and still won, Franklin took his pointer finger and motioned it toward his chest. Right where his heart sits. “Heart. We got heart. We do whatever it takes to win,” Franklin said. “Gotta have heart, gotta have heart.” This comment did not come from the same Jamaal Franklin who Missouri State fans verbally harassed for two hours on Saturday. This is not the same guy who seemed to have endless trash talk material on the floor, and this is not the same guy who seemed to be at the center of every single foul called by the officials.
That’s only one version of Franklin. Want the other version? There’s the guy who, on the first possession of the game, ran his tail off toward the baseline to save a ball from going out of bounds. There’s the guy who, after the officials called that flagrant, apologized to Lusk and shook his hand — in the middle of the game. “I don’t think anybody on either team tried to do anything other than play hard,” coach Steve Fisher said, giving the politically correct answer. No matter your perception of him, Franklin just has such an undeniable level of respect from his teammates. It’s obvious on the court, and he’s the kind of star whose attitude helped the Aztecs survive a horrendous shooting night and pull away from the pesky Bears late in the second half.
That’s the real Jamaal Franklin. Not a villain. Just a West Coast kid. “I don’t know what the word is I’m looking for. He’s emotional. But he plays hard and gets it done,” Lusk said. “I don’t have a problem with Franklin.” Even if he’s a little, let’s say, “irritating” at times. “It’s something to laugh about on the court,” Pickens said. “He tries to [get under our skin], but he’s a good player. He’s coached well, and he knows what to do to win ball games.”
The junior has won a lot of games under Fisher so far. His Aztecs have already shared two Mountain West regular season titles in both of Franklin’s seasons, and it’s not wild to suggest they could win another one. This is a highly competitive conference – with UNLV at the top, of course – but it’s not an unattainable goal, especially when you consider the the play-like-there’s-no-tomorrow factor since SDSU leaves for the Big West after the season. “They’re grown men,” Lusk said. “They’ve been through college basketball, played in NCAA Tournaments.” Franklin will surely get to play in another one this March. By then, his West Coast Swagger won’t be a secret anymore.
Especially not to any of the defenders who have to put up with his trash talk.