Charlotte forward left Hoosiers early

Hornets' bench or trip to Final Four?

Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kirk Haston faithfully tapes each Indiana basketball game, reads stories about the team and is in constant contact with many of the Hoosiers.

He feels like part of the team. Almost.

A year after leaving Indiana as a junior to join the NBA draft, Haston's feelings have been mixed as he's watched the Hoosiers' incredible run to the Final Four.

Although he was a first-round pick of the Charlotte Hornets, Haston has been stuck on the end of the bench all season, while his former teammates have run off a series of upsets to reach college basketball's ultimate weekend.

''You can play the 'what if' game,'' Haston said. ''But it's not a matter of thinking about right or wrong decisions, just that you made a decision. That's what I did. I was thinking more long-term than short-term. ... There's nothing you can do about that now.''

The Hoosiers beat Kent State 81-69 on Saturday to advance to their first Final Four in 10 years. They had the upset of the tournament, knocking off No. 1 Duke in the South Regional semifinals.

''They kind of relished the thought of being the underdog,'' Haston said. ''You could tell early in the second half they were really looking forward to giving it to Duke.''

Haston averaged 19 points and 8.7 rebounds a game as a junior, second in the league in both categories, as the Hoosiers went 21-13.

After a strong pre-draft camp in Chicago, he declared for the draft and was the 16th pick in the first round. But Haston, from Lobelville, Tenn., has played in only 15 games for Charlotte, averaging 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds.

He's played no more than 12 minutes, and has a pair of four-point games as his career high.

Haston said he has kept in regular contact with Dane Fife, Jarrad Odle and former roommate Kyle Hornsby, all stars on this year's Hoosiers squad.

''Those are some of my best friends in the world,'' Haston said. ''Dane called me after they clinched (the Big Ten) and we talked for a while. It's kind of tough talking about it. Missing senior night was really tough. I miss the fans and everything. It was a decision I made with my mind and not with my heart.''

Odle, who became the starting forward during the season, said he enjoyed the increased playing time, but missed Haston's presence.

''Personally for me, I played behind Kirk the first three years. Now that he did leave, it opened up some points and rebounds and minutes,'' Odle said. ''I'm sure we all wish Kirk at this point was with us, but he made his decision and now he's playing in the NBA.''

Haston, whose 1,406 points rank 17th on the Indiana career scoring list, joked that the Hoosiers were better off without him.

''They needed to get me out of the way,'' he said. ''I don't think they needed me. Dane's probably glad I'm not out there taking shots. He can get a few more looks now.

''I'm just proud of them. They're living a dream.''

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