He Wants to be a Millionaire

So why did LaMarcus Aldridge put off NBA riches?

"Smile, LaMarcus," another one says.

He does smile as he picks up a pen and prepares to sign the paper in front of him, as the flashbulbs pop. It's his letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Texas. It's April 14, the first day of the NCAA's late signing period. No sense waiting another day. But he prolongs the wait for just one more moment, faking uncertainty with a twinkle in his eye.

"Hmmm, do I want to sign?" He strokes his chin as everyone laughs. He does, too, then finally writes his name at the bottom of the sheet. It's finally over.

LaMarcus Aldridge shows off some of the skills that brought NBA scouts to his games--and respect to the long-dormant Seagoville basketball program.
Mark Graham
LaMarcus Aldridge shows off some of the skills that brought NBA scouts to his games--and respect to the long-dormant Seagoville basketball program.
Away from the court, LaMarcus Aldridge is a normal 18-year-old kid. He just happens to be 7 feet tall.
Mark Graham
Away from the court, LaMarcus Aldridge is a normal 18-year-old kid. He just happens to be 7 feet tall.

Except this is all for show. Aldridge filled out the paperwork and faxed it to the proper authorities this morning. And he called UT coach Rick Barnes the night after the McDonald's game to tell him of his decision. This ceremony is just a chance for everyone who helped him along the way to revel in one last LaMarcus Aldridge highlight.

He traces his name again and again for the next 30 minutes, posing for a shot with his mom and coach, then another one with the coaches and Seagoville's principal, Judith Klaus.

School counselor Betty Brown takes in the scene like an approving mother, perhaps because that's precisely how she feels. "He's doing exactly what I wanted him to do," she says. Well, except he chose UT over Oklahoma State. "He's a sweet kid."

Brown probably feels even prouder when Aldridge--who initially said he would attend UT for only one year before declaring for the draft, like Bosh and Carmelo Anthony--admits that he "might get there and not want to leave for four years." It probably won't happen that way, but all school counselors are allowed some wishful thinking.

Once the signing ceremony is over, Aldridge and his mother line up for the lunch the homemaking class has prepared. After filling his plate, he turns off the spotlight. Now that the decision has been made, he has a few months to be a kid again.

"I'm gonna go in the kitchen so no one can watch me eat," he announces.

"Trying to act bashful," his mother says to no one in particular, smiling to herself. "He's something else. "

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