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Saturday, April 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Sonics
Sesay ready to make his mark guarding Nowitzki

By Percy Allen
Seattle Times staff reporter

ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The Sonics' Ansu Sesay, who has played many roles in his two years with the Sonics, will be a free agent at season's end.
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The pocketknife metaphor fits Ansu Sesay.

Whatever the Sonics have needed over the past two years, he has provided.

Dutiful practice player? He did it. Occasional reserve? He was there. Defensive stopper? Yup. A point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward?

Yes to all four.

"Any position except center," Sesay said, smiling after yesterday's practice. "I might think I can, but really, in my heart, I know better."

Yet when the Sonics face Dallas today in a rare midday game at KeyArena, Sesay will be given the primary responsibility of slowing down 7-foot All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who would have been a center in another era.

"I'm not backing down from that challenge," Sesay said. "The bigger the challenge, the better."

Others might run from the apparent mismatch, but Sesay, a starter today for the first time this season and an unrestricted free agent after its end, is seeking to make a name for himself.

"Versatile players, we tend to get overlooked in this league," said Sesay, a lanky, 6-9 forward who tied career bests with 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Mavericks on Tuesday. "If you're not shooting threes, scoring 30 points and getting 20 rebounds, they are not really noticing you.

"I'm one of those throwback players that you can't judge by just stats, but rather you've got to know basketball to know what I bring to a team."
 
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Sesay, a former MVP of the National Basketball Development League, signed a 10-day contract with the Sonics two years ago. He appeared in the final nine games of the 2001-02 season and impressed the coaching staff enough to warrant a two-year deal.

With the Sonics, he has played sparingly and has been unable to display the skills that allowed him to become the second player at Mississippi to amass 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 200 assists.

"On one hand, I'm happy just to be here and to play at this level," Sesay said. "But on the other hand, I know I can do a whole lot more than what I'm doing."

McMillan chastises players

Despite the presence of three levelheaded co-captains and a slew of young players eager to impress their bosses, somehow yesterday's Sonics practice went awry.

Their focus, said coach Nate McMillan, who chose his words carefully, was not there. As a result, he punished his players by making them run a taxing three-man weave drill at the end of the 90-minute workout.

Following the series of sprints, McMillan lectured the Sonics for 13 minutes in a corner of the practice facility.

McMillan's message was clear: "Respect the game."

"We've got three games remaining. Three practices left," he said. "My attitude is, nothing is changing as far as the way we prepare and the way we want to play the game."

What disturbed McMillan, said a few Sonics, was a perceived disregard for this afternoon's game against Dallas, a team that has beaten Seattle three times this season, including a 118-108 defeat four days ago.

Ridnour on Robinson

Nate Robinson's ascension as a basketball player at Washington took significant steps a year ago when he outplayed Luke Ridnour, not once, but twice when the Sonics guard starred at Oregon.

Perhaps Ridnour's relative success leaving school with one year of eligibility left inspired Robinson to follow a similar path. However, Ridnour has sobering advice for the Huskies' 5-9 sophomore.

"He's such a good athlete, so quick and fast, and when we played them, he'd always play the 2-guard and really wouldn't be the point," Ridnour said. "The point is the toughest position to learn and he'd have to play that. But I think he can get it done.

"I'd like to see him go back and prove that the U-Dub is a good team and do it again. But if that's the best decision he thinks, you've got to give him all of the credit and support him."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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