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Dampier enjoyed time with Heat

January 18, 2012

(Photo by David Santiago, El Nuevo Herald, AP)

It takes more than one, two or three All-Star players to have success.

Former Mississippi State center Erick Dampier got to experience that first-hand in the National Basketball Association as a member of the Miami Heat last season.

Even though Miami had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (a.k.a. The Big Three), Dampier said there was more to the team than just them.

"People always talk about the big three on that team, but they can't go out and win all of those games by themselves," Dampier said. "It takes 12 people and that's what people fail to realize. You have to talk about the team in order to win games. Those guys bought into the team concept and without the other 12 people on that team, we couldn't win."

In only one season of being together, Dampier gained tremendous respect for James because of the way he went about his business.

Dampier calls James "the best player in the league," but said there's a reason he has reached that status.

"You have to get to know him, see him practice, see the way he works and his will to win," Dampier said. "He's an exceptional player. To have that opportunity to play with him was great for me. I've never seen anyone with the talent that he has. I got the opportunity to practice with him every day, watch him carry a team and watch him win games for us."

The Heat reached the NBA Finals last season and it was the second time Dampier had reached that point during his 15 seasons. He also made the Finals with the Dallas Mavericks.

Even though there have been some ups and downs in his professional career, Dampier calls playing in the Finals the most rewarding part of it.

"Those opportunities don't come along often in the NBA when you get there, you've got to make the most of it," Dampier said. "I enjoyed those two teams I was on and had a great experience playing with those great guys in the league last year. I wish it had ended differently, but I definitely enjoyed the ride."

Dampier also experienced a unit that embraced the notion of teamwork in 1996 while playing for the Bulldogs. He was a part of a starting lineup that included Dontae' Jones, Russell Walters, Darryl Wilson and Marcus Bullard that went all of the way to the NCAA Final Four.

During his three-year MSU career, Dampier scored 1,231 points and 859 rebounds. He was honored prior to last Saturday's Alabama game on the All-Century Team.

Dampier said it was good to be back in Starkville, see all of the changes on campus and visit with Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury, who recruited him to play for the Bulldogs.

"I'm a fan of him," Dampier said of Stansbury. "This is where it started for me and anytime I can come back and help the guys out, talk to Rick, tell them what I see and what I don't see, just my experience can be a great asset to them."

Dampier was thankful for being placed on the All-Century Team along with other MSU greats like Bailey Howell.

Making the All-Century Team and reaching the NBA took some time and effort for Dampier.

"It didn't happen overnight," Dampier said. "It took years and years of work. I'm just happy to be part of that (All-Century) team. All the work paid off and that's just one of the accomplishments of it. It shows if you put the work in, the time in, you can change a lot of that, regardless of what people say about you.

"When I came here, I was mainly just a rebounder and shot blocker. It took years and years to work on my offensive game. I kept working on it, working on it and it eventually got to the point where I could score more easily in the post. It was just working. That was the biggest difference and I had people behind me. I gave people a reason to believe I could score on the offensive block."

Dampier left the Bulldogs after his junior season and was the 10th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers. He's been the Pacers, Golden State Warriors, Mavericks and Heat.

His best season came in 2003-04 when he averaged 12.3 points and 12 rebounds per game for Golden State.

For his NBA career, Dampier averages 7.5 points and 7.2 boards per outing.

After averaging 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per outing with the Heat last season, he is now waiting and working out in Jackson for his next opportunity.

"I'm wanting to see what team is going to need my service," Dampier said. "I think I can play another two or three years if I can stay healthy with no problems, continue to work out and keep my body in shape. That's the biggest key for me."

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