John Smallwood | Never saw it coming


DENNIS SEDDON has seen pictures. He knows the face, but no longer recognizes the man.

This is not the Eddie Griffin he knew.

This is not the young man he coached at Roman Catholic High School, the one with so much potential as a basketball player and a person.

"He seems to be a very different person now," says Seddon, in his 22nd season of coaching at Roman Catholic. "I've seen pictures of him and had to do a double take because I didn't recognize him.

"He had that scowl on his face and was trying to look all hard. That was not the Eddie I knew."

Griffin, only 24, is near rock bottom these days.

The promising future that he should be realizing is instead crumbling around him.

Griffin, who was selected seventh overall in the 2001 NBA draft, hasn't played a game for the Minnesota Timberwolves since Dec. 13.

Before Griffin completed his

recent five-game drug-test suspension, Minnesota owner Glen Taylor had all but said the troubled forward never would play another game for the Wolves.

The word out of Minnesota is that the Timberwolves are trying to find a way to terminate the rest of the 3-year, $8.1 million contract Griffin signed before the start of the 2005-06 season or reach a buyout agreement.

Like the New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets before them, the Wolves simply decided that trying to tap into Griffin's potential is no longer worth the baggage of dealing with his alcoholism and other personal issues.

Griffin's last alcohol-related drama was on March 30, 2006.

He was involved in a car crash that witnesses claimed was caused because he was watching a pornographic DVD and masturbating while driving.

Although the accident report does not indicate that police at the scene required Griffin to

submit to a Breathalyzer test, Griffin was reportedly recorded on the security camera of a convenience store saying he was drunk and did not have a driver's license.

He also was recorded as pleading with the man whose SUV he hit to not call the police. He allegedly offered to buy the man a new car if he would keep the

police out of the matter.

Seddon doesn't know what to make of Griffin's fall from grace. He just knows it saddens him.

"I never thought it would come to this," Seddon says of Griffin, a player some said was the best big man to come out of a Philadelphia high school since Wilt Chamberlain. "When he was at Roman Catholic, he was a

different person.

"We never saw any of this


There was the fight with a teammate during his senior year at Roman Catholic that caused Griffin to get suspended, but no one saw it as a harbinger of the waves of disturbing trouble that followed.

"I think it was a case of too much too soon," Seddon says about what he believes happened to Griffin, "and you don't know how to handle it.

"You're 17 years old and suddenly you're responsible for

supporting your entire family. Too soon, suddenly there are a lot of strings attached and

responsibilities that you didn't know you were going to have."

Seddon concedes that his conclusions are only speculation. He doesn't know for sure what happened because he hasn't spoken to Griffin since 2001 - not for a lack of trying, however.

"We've reached out to [Griffin] a number of times," Seddon says. "I've written letters to the Timberwolves and before that the Houston Rockets when he was with them.

"I've talked to a few friends of his that he was close with. [Griffin] has never responded back to us. It's been a couple of years since I spoke to him, I guess not since Seton Hall."

Griffin played one season at

Seton Hall before entering the NBA in 2001.

Seddon thinks about the athletic kid with the shooting range of a guard and reflects about what could have been.

"He could have been an All-Star-caliber player in the NBA with what he brought to the table," Seddon says. "He's 6-9 with range on his shot. Not too many guys at his size can do what he could."

It's for that very reason that some NBA team might give

Griffin another chance if he can finally clean up his personal life. That's business in professional sports.

Seddon, however, is more

concerned with Eddie Griffin the person than Eddie Griffin the product.

Assuming Griffin didn't lose it all in alcohol-related stupors, he still has made millions of dollars during his so-far failed basketball career. A positive future still can be Griffin's, even without the NBA.

"He is only 24 years old," Seddon says. "He's been through hell, but he's got his whole life ahead of him.

"I just want him to know that we are here for him. We don't want anything from him, like some other people may have. We just want him to be happy.

"Hopefully, he'll read this

article and know that we are here for him. We just care for

Eddie, the person." *

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