Could Mavs help Caracter build character?

NBA draft prospect Derrick Caracter should have been born with an 'h' in his last name because he's been quite the character in a long, strange journey to the NBA draft.

Since the eighth grade, UTEP's 6-9, 280-pound power forward started seeing his name in lights and by the time he got to Louisville and coach Rick Pitino, Caracter was blinded by the glare.

"Going into my eighth grade year, they ranked me No. 1 (prospect in the nation)," Caracter told the El Paso Times during the season. "I stayed No. 1 until my junior year. That's when I let everything get into my head. I got cocky; big headed. I didn't work out too good and I got heavy. Even then, though, Lebron James was ranked No. 1 and they had me at No. 5."

Heading into Thursday's NBA draft, Caracter will be lucky if he's any better than No. 50, as in the 50th overall pick. That's where the Dallas Mavericks select barring a move up.

Caracter lasted two miserable seasons at Louisville at which point Pitino kicked him off the team. Pitino, who once compared Caracter to the Round Mound of Rebounds himself -- Charles Barkley -- bid Caracter adieu by calling him a thorn in his side.

So the New Jersey native headed farther west to UTEP. After sitting out a year to satisfy transfer rules, Caracter seems to have delved deep into his character, realizing a lucrative pro career hung in the balance. The junior averaged 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in leading the Miners to the regular-season Conference-USA title.

Caracter is remarkably agile and athletic for such a large man. He was a force for UTEP down low, but could also step out and sink a floating jump shot, not unlike the Boston Celtics' 6-9, 289-pound Glen "Big Baby" Davis (although Caracater is a better rebounder). The Mavs passed up on Davis, a second-rounder who is now an integral reserve in Boston, a couple of years ago.

Although the Mavs say they draft the best player and not by need that late in the second round, Caracter would fill a need at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki and health-risk Eduardo Najera. The Mavs need rebounding help and scoring punch on the low blocks.

San Antonio relished its selection last summer of another low-center-of-gravity load in 6-7, 265-pound center DeJuan Blair. Blair averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds as a rookie. The Mavs passed on him in the second round, too.

Caracter, seemingly having added a dash of maturity and humility, could be one of the draft's sleepers at No. 50.

Other big men who could be available at No. 50:

Dexter Pittman, Texas

Brian Zoubek, Duke

Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

Jerome Jordan, Tulsa

Hamady N'Diaye, Rutgers

Tiny Gallon, Oklahoma