Sundiata Gaines joins N.J. Nets

Is there another tremendous backcourt man from the New York City playgrounds on the rise?

Over the years, Ron Artest, Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald, World Free, Richie Guerin, Kenny Anderson, Speedy Claxton, Sebastian Telfair, and Stephon Marbury are only a few of the great City ‘small men’ who made it big time.

Now in his second season in the National Basketball Association, another New York native guard has the potential to really blossom and have a bright future ahead of him.

His name is Sundiata Gaines, who grew up in South Jamaica, and played his high school ball under a legendary coach in Jack Curran, who is still at the helm of the varsity at Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, Queens. Gaines was a two-year varsity starter at Molloy.

Gaines played four years in the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association system, where he made a name for himself, and then advanced to a four-year career at the University of Georgia, where he received a full scholarship and started every college game.

Curran was instrumental in preparing Gaines for the next level.

“He was one of the top three coaches who I had in my career,” the 6’1”, 200-pound Gaines said. “He taught me a lot about the fundamentals of basketball (including) how to be a point guard and be a leader.”

While playing at Molloy he became its third all-time top scorer behind Anderson and Kenny Smith. The latter is now a television analyst.

After donning uniforms for Utah, Toronto and Minnesota all from the National Basketball Association, he joined another NBA team, the Nets as a free agent in late February and made his debut against Toronto in London.

When he signed his contract, Coach Avery Johnson told him to keep working hard as he was doing a good job.

“On my behalf, there is always room for improvement,” Gaines said,

As a backup point guard, at times running the show, Gaines has certainly impressed the Nets coaching staff. His role is to be a point guard. He can also play the ‘2’ position. He feels comfortable wherever his coach puts him.

“He is a terrific defender and we like what he’s been doing (both offensively and defensively),” Johnson recently said.

At times he looked extremely good as a reserve guard. He scores from the outside on the jump shot, drives to the basket, has an eye for the ball, makes good decisions, defends well, steals and rebounds if need be. He must work on his long-range shooting and cut down on mistakes. He’s getting more and more time.

“He (Gaines) is doing a good job,” the first year Net head coach said. “He makes big plays at both ends of the court, and makes big ‘threes’ for us.

In the game at the Prudential Center against Indiana, he stepped up big especially in the second half and played good defense, He battles and plays with intensity.

“Gaines has stepped up and played well when he gets a chance,” said starting guard Jordan Farmar.

Gaines started his basketball career at the age of four in Queens. He was introduced to the sport by his father, Ronnie, who played his high school ball at Jamaica, New York. The resident of Rochedale Village saw action in every tournament at least once throughout the city.

“I’ve been playing around a lot,” he added.

After Georgia, he played overseas in Italy and then went to Idaho in the NBA Developmental League for 14 games and was called up by Utah last year. He learned to compete as hard as he can under Coach Jerry Sloan.

The 25-year-old Gaines signed two 10-day contracts with the Nets and then signed a multi-year contract that runs through the 2011-2012 season, thus giving him the first real opportunity to be with a team for a complete year.

Everything is working out good for him.

His goal is to get better every day. He has to work on a lot of areas, including decision making,

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