Shady Side Academy grad Harika enters NBA draft

| Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Fan House, Deadspin and Tailrank, whose claim is "We track the hottest news in the blogosphere," are a few of the offbeat Web sites that reveal Shady Side Academy graduate Monty Singh Harika's recent proclamation to enter the June NBA draft.

Why• Because people love an offbeat story once in a while.

Harika's claim to a Washington Post blogger that "It's just kind of a thing to get publicity," could be considered an understatement of huge proportions. Harika, 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, never scored more than two points in any game in high school. At George Washington, where he is a freshman, he isn't even on the basketball team.

But he does know a majority of the George Washington players and plays pickup games with them.

"My plan now is I'm trying to walk on with the team next season," said Harika, who is eligible to withdraw his name up until one week before the June 28 draft and retain his college eligibility because he has not hired an agent.

"(Tuesday) morning, I was on some mainstream radio show in St. Louis," he said. "I'm contacting everybody to get my name out there. I've e-mailed people like Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel and ESPN."

Harika, a Monroeville native, conceded that his parents, whom he declined to identify, are likely to be upset when they learn of his actions.

"They're strict parents. They don't really want me to play basketball," he said, explaining that his family adheres to Sikhism, a religion based in Northern India, from which his family originates. "We believe in one God, and we believe that all people are equal. We don't cut our hair. I wear a turban, but when I ball, I wear a do-rag. I don't have a problem with it."

Harika, 18, said he believes he is the first Sikh to enter the NBA draft.

He played basketball in high school and football in middle school, and he said he has weighed as much as 290 pounds.

His secret to weight loss?

"I just watched my diet. No more soda," he said. "Over the past summer, I lost a lot of weight. I worked out a lot."

Shady Side Academy coach Terence Parham did not return telephone calls seeking comment about Harika.

Though his high school basketball career didn't progress especially far, he said he greatly has improved his skills in a short time.

"My high game was two points," Harika said. "I wasn't very good, but when I left high school, I got really good.

"All my high school friends and coaches are supporting me. They're loving it."

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