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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – He’s got almost an eight foot wing span.

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Hassan Whiteside is the long tall guy who has beat some long tall odds.  Now, the soft spoken seven footer could be the key to saving the Heat’s season.

Since being injected into the Heat’s lineup, Whiteside has given the team a surprising lift.  It’s like the soft spoken guy from North Carolina came out of nowhere.

Dwyane Wade calls him a rookie, but he’s no rookie.

“No comment,” Whiteside said with a smirk after hearing Wade’s comment.

Dwyane’s reply?

“I call him what I want because I’m a veteran and that’s what we do,” explained Wade.

Whiteside may as well be an NBA rookie. He played a hot minute in the league five years ago, but was deemed too brittle and injury prone.  So he bounced around the world playing in China and even Lebanon.

Whiteside admits that while it may have been difficult, he never gave up on his NBA dream.

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“I’ve got a strong heart towards my dream,” he said.  “I always try to keep the faith and just keep driving and just know I could do it.”

Whiteside couldn’t take the Middle East anymore, and landed in the NBA’s developmental league when the Heat gave him a rare second shot.

“It was difficult,” he said. “I’m really glad the Heat didn’t listen to what anyone else had to say. They just gave me a chance, just kinda believed in me when no other team in the NBA would.”

While Whiteside seems well aware that very few people get a second chance in the NBA, his teammates are quick to remind him of just how rare those occurrences are.

“I want him to really be thankful for getting back in (to the NBA) because a lot of guys don’t make it back,” said Chris Bosh. “He was playing in Lebanon, and no offense to Lebanon but I’d rather play in the NBA.”

Whiteside once looked up to Alonzo Mourning. Now, he’s become Zo’s latest protégé and is blocking shots the way Mourning once did. Not with the same scowl, but the same confidence.

“I told the guards that when I’m out there you can press up on the defenders and make them drive,” said Whiteside. “I want them to (drive with the ball).”

It’s easy to see why. When confronted with those long arms, there’s not much a guy can do.

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Jim Berry