Over the past four weeks, former Pitt star DeJuan Blair has trained harder than he had in his life. For five or six hours a day, Blair endured training sessions at the gym, in the weight room and on the treadmill at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Thanks to the regimented workout schedule and a strict diet, Blair sweated away more than 30 pounds. His new and improved body (he now weighs in at 275 pounds) and his impressive workouts for NBA scouts have solidified his position as a first-round selection in the NBA draft June 25, and he is on the cusp of being a lottery pick.
Blair has rocketed up draft boards after spending a month in Florida, where he proved that he can be disciplined with his diet and demonstrated a tremendous desire to compete.
"It's been all work down here," Blair said by telephone from Florida this week. "There were days when I didn't want to get up, but I had to. I had to grind it out. It's all paying off. I hope to be in the lottery and do something people told me I couldn't do."
Blair has already worked out for the Phoenix Suns, who have the No. 14 pick in the draft. Between now and the draft, he will also work out for Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Indiana, Atlanta, New Jersey and Toronto. All of those teams have picks between No. 9 and No. 19.
Unless some of those workouts do not go well, Blair appears to be on course of fulfilling his NBA dreams.
"Of course, I made the right decision," said Blair, who received his fair share of criticism for leaving Pitt with two seasons of eligibility remaining. "It's all basketball here. That's the best thing about the NBA. It's all basketball. It's fun. And it'll be fun wherever I go."
Blair, who shared Big East Player of the Year honors with Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut, had some question marks at the time he declared in April, but he has answered them since.
Two of the biggest issues with Blair were his weight and the health of his knees. But his knees checked out fine at the Chicago predraft camp last week, and he has proven he can be responsible with his weight.
When Blair was in town for a few days this week, he had dinner with a friend. The friend was shocked to hear him order a grilled chicken salad. He no longer eats bread products and has sworn off the fast food that he enjoyed so frequently during his college days.
"My nutritionist took me to the nutrition store and bought me a bunch of stuff, told me what I could eat and not eat," Blair said. "I'm not around McDonald's and Wendy's down here. Discipline is the biggest thing. You can't eat certain foods. You have to eat what's good for you.
"It's going well. I'm losing weight and I'm changing my body. I feel really good. I took off a lot of fat and put on muscle. Now I'm quicker and lighter."
Blair will find out next week whether he will be one of the 15 players invited to New York for the draft. The NBA invites prospective lottery picks to be present at the draft. The top 14 players selected are considered lottery picks.
A number of NBA teams are in search of a physical power forward or center, and Blair should benefit from the fact that there are not a lot of quality big men in the draft this season.
"I feel like there are a lot of teams that like me," Blair said. "I have to go out there and show them again why they like me."
'I hope to be in the lottery and do something people told me I couldn't do.'
When: June 25.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York.
Format: Two rounds, with 30 picks in each round.
First pick: Los Angeles Clippers.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.