Heat youngsters eager for a new ‘school’ year

A black limousine that carried three young Miami Heat players to
elementary school on Monday was parked about 25 feet from the front
door, and barely any of the 900 students arriving to begin a new
year noticed.

They couldn’t wait to get inside and get to work.

And the Heat trio can completely relate to that sort of
thinking.

”Like these kids,” Heat guard Patrick Beverley said, ”we
can’t wait to get this thing started.”

Monday was a first day unlike any other at Miramar Elementary,
where Beverley and Heat teammates Kenny Hasbrouck and Dexter
Pittman showed up long before the opening bell of the year to
distribute backpacks, notebooks, pens, markers, pencils and just
about every other imaginable school supply.

So it’s back-to-school time for the kids. For the Heat, school
resumes in about a month when training camp starts. And Hasbrouck,
Beverley and Pittman know they’ll have to fight just to make
Miami’s loaded roster, which still features Dwyane Wade and now is
bolstered mightily by new arrivals LeBron James, Chris Bosh and
Mike Miller.

”To put it in words, it’s still kind of hard,” Hasbrouck said.
”The opportunity at hand for all of us is a great one, just to
play with this many great players. It’s almost impossible to put
into words right now until it becomes reality.”

Hasbrouck played college ball at tiny Siena. Now he finds
himself battling for a job on the team with perhaps the biggest
buzz in basketball.

Hasbrouck was a late add to the Heat roster last season, giving
him time to get to know Wade. He often sees Bosh working out at 8
a.m., and while he’s been around James at times, Hasbrouck has yet
to meet the NBA’s two-time reigning MVP.

”He’s been busy,” Hasbrouck said.

They all have, with eyes on a title.

Beverley has a guaranteed contract, though that hardly
guarantees him playing time in this new Heat era. His relationship
with James goes back several years, so if nothing else, he won’t be
awe-struck when it’s time to work out and play alongside Miami’s
most notable free agent signing ever.

”We go back a long way,” said Beverley, a 2009 Heat draft
acquisition who spent last season in Europe. ”We chat every day.
He’s a great veteran. That definitely gives me a lot of confidence.
I know D-Wade from Chicago. I’ve spent a lot of time with Udonis
Haslem. It’s good to see your veterans, your top guys, helping out.
It’s been great for players at that caliber to reach out to young
guys, take them under their umbrella.”

Pittman and Hasbrouck have partially guaranteed contracts. Both
figure to have at least a good chance of making the club this
season, since each could fill a need. The Heat rave about the way
the 6-foot-11 – ”and a half,” Pittman boasted to kids Monday –
former Texas center has athleticism that belies his 300-pound
frame. Hasbrouck impressed coaches last season and this summer with
how quickly he learned Miami’s system.

”I’m starting to learn that it’s all professional and business
here,” Pittman said. ”It’s not like college. It’s strictly
business. And it’s still like a dream to me. I feel like I’m in a
daze. I know what I have to do, go put in my work and hope that I
can help contribute.”

Soon, the backpacks and binders were just about gone, and the
Heat trio climbed back into the limo for the short ride back to the
arena.

Not back to school, but back to work.

”You’ve got to know your role,” Hasbrouck said. ”I’m here to
do anything I have to do for the team. If that means play as hard
as I can, get the starters better and wait my turn, then that’s
what I have to do. I’m not really in a rush. I’m not going to force
it. I haven’t proven anything yet. So anything I can do to help
this team, then that’s what I will do.”