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From Dime 72: Before The NBA, Jamaal Franklin Has Unfinished Business At San Diego State

This feature was originally printed in Dime 72. Check your local newsstands now to see the piece in its entirety…

Instant gratification has quickly become the M.O. of major college basketball. Recruits are showered with attention from the sixth grade through high school. Coaches are quick to tell them they are on the fast track to the NBA. Jamaal Franklin heard it. But he’s not ready to leave college just yet.

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When recruits enter college and immediately find unfulfilled promises, dissatisfaction kicks in. Sometimes, they’ll transfer. Oregon’s Jabari Brown transferred after playing only two games for the Ducks last season. Others will complain. After being told to redshirt, Mississippi State’s D.J. Gardner used Twitter to lash out at his head coach and was promptly dismissed from the team.

This all makes Jamaal Franklin an increasing anomaly in college basketball. Coming out of high school, Franklin expected to come in and play right away for San Diego State. It came as quite a shock when head coach Steve Fisher suggested he redshirt his freshman season.

“The beginning of my freshman year was really tough,” Franklin says. “In high school I was always playing a lot, coach even told me to try and redshirt, which was tough, but I had too much pride for to do that. I just wanted to stick it out, grind it out, and try to earn my way into a role on the team.”

While it was not apparent to Franklin, it was easy to see why Fisher might want to redshirt him. He had arguably the best team in program history, led by future NBA players Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas. There weren’t many minutes available. But he didn’t force the redshirt on Franklin, and ultimately, the 6-5 guard worked his way into consistent minutes.

After not playing in 12 of the team’s first 21 games, Franklin played in 13 of the final 16, with his best performance being a 13-point, 10-rebound performance in an 85-53 victory over Utah. The team finished the 2010-11 season 34-3, the best record in program history, before losing in the Sweet Sixteen to UConn.

Despite only averaging eight minutes a game, Franklin was happy with his decision not to redshirt.

“I’m definitely happy I decided not to redshirt because I was on a really special team that was like my family,” he says. “I feel like if I had redshirted, I would have been away from all that, and I still had a great experience even though I didn’t get to play that much. At the end of the day, playing was a really good experience.”

[RELATED: Jamaal Franklin Threw An Off-The-Glass Alley-Oop To Himself From The Three-Point Line]

Going into his sophomore season, expectations for Franklin and the team were low. They were losing their top four players from their record-setting season. Most expected a rebuilding year. However, San Diego State quickly emerged as one of the top mid-major programs in the country by playing a four-guard lineup reminiscent of the 2005 Villanova Wildcats. Within any game, Franklin could move from the two-guard to being the team’s power forward, a versatility that proved invaluable.

“I think it did make me more well-rounded as a player,” Franklin says of playing multiple positions. “I’m able to take guys off the wing and drive on them or post up smaller players so it definitely made me more versatile. I’m also able to guard in the post and guard the perimeter because I played anywhere from two through four. Playing different positions forced me to be tougher.”

With Franklin leading the way, averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game, San Diego State finished the season with a 26-8 record. No one expected that, and yet the year ended badly for Franklin. The team lost their last two games, in the Mountain West Championship to New Mexico and in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to North Carolina State. Those losses left a bitter taste in Franklin’s mouth, and made him hungry to come back for his junior year after briefly flirting with the NBA.

So far this season, Franklin is averaging 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and even 3.1 assists a night as the team has jumped out to a 20-8 record. With most of his teammates back in the fold from last year, Franklin has some unfinished business.

“At the end of the day I wasn’t satisfied with not winning the Mountain West Conference championship,” he says. “I want to win that before I even think about going to the NBA.”

Which team and at what draft position will Franklin end up at this summer?

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