Plumlee returns home to Pacers

Miles Plumlee

Former Blue Devil big man was drafted No. 26 by the Indiana Pacers.

NDIANAPOLIS — Miles Plumlee is completely comfortable with being an object of scorn.

He did, after all, play for Duke and that kind of thing happens to Blue Devils now and then.

The Pacers took Plumlee with the 26th overall pick in the draft, and Twitter was suddenly full of comments from fans who mercilessly ripped one of the final touches on Larry Bird's tenure as team president.

Plumlee expects the sentiment to change.

"Fans are fans, they want what's best for the team," he said Friday. "I totally understand. I'm excited because I'm going to be able to contribute here. I think they'll learn to love me down the road."

Incoming team president Donnie Walsh said he remembers being booed when he drafted Chuck Person and Reggie Miller. Person was rookie of the year and Miller is in the Hall of Fame. He expects Plumlee, while a much different player, also will prove doubters wrong.

"It always amuses me that people judge the draft the next day," Walsh said. "They've not seen the guy play, they've not seen the him play within the team. I've always thought, well, let's wait 'til next year, and see how this all turns out, see if he's a good player, if he fits in, if he's everything we're looking for.' I don't really take much from what the immediate reaction is."

Plumlee landed back home in Indiana on Friday. The 6-foot-10 native of Warsaw, Ind., met the local media and held up his new No. 13 jersey for photos.

"I couldn't be more excited to play for this team," he said. "Watching them, they're up and coming. They've already built such a strong program. I'm used to winning. I love winning. That's why I went to Duke. I know they're going to be great, and I want to be a part of that."

Plumlee is athletic but a raw offensive player. He averaged 6.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game as a senior. He shot 61 percent from the field but played only 20.5 minutes per game and started just 16 of 34 contests his final year. Plumlee said he is a capable scorer who was not required to shoot much at Duke.

"I definitely can score, but I know that's not what they brought me in here for," he said. "I know I can contribute in other ways. What I did at Duke is not indicative of who I am as a player entirely. I've got more to offer, and I'm excited to show Indiana what I can do."

Plumlee understands that he is not expected to post big scoring numbers. He's similar to Jeff Foster, who retired last season after making a career out of hustling, rebounding and physical play.

"I know my role," he said. "I don't think the adjustment is going to be as difficult for me. I went through that coming out of high school, going into college. I know what it takes to be part of a team. I'm willing to assume any role they want."

Miles will practice with former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. Plumlee was a freshman when Hansbrough was a senior. The two never matched up - Hansbrough was an All-American while Plumlee humbly says he was "learning that year." Still, Plumlee remembers Hansbrough well and looks forward to battling him in practice.

"He's a warrior out there," he said. "The intensity he plays with, his whole demeanor he plays with on the court, it's intimidating to his opponent. I'm excited to learn from him."

He almost didn't get the chance. Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard said other teams were interested in Plumlee, too.

Plumlee grew up well aware of Bird's status as an Indiana legend. Knowing that Bird, who is leaving the Pacers at the end of August, sweated so much about the possibility of not getting him meant a great deal.

"He's one of my heroes," Plumlee said. "I've really admired him as a player and a person. That's as good as it gets. Hearing compliments from Larry Bird on who I am as a player feels great. My confidence is through the roof right now."

Plumlee comes from a basketball family. Mason was a junior at Duke last season and Marshall was a freshman. Miles Plumlee said he looks forward to making a name for himself while staying a step ahead of Mason.

"It's crazy because Mason was way more highly touted coming out of high school," he said. "People thought he'd be in the league way before I ever would. It's fun to keep that footrace going and stay on top of him."

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