Monday, May 17, 2004

Outstanding article on NBA / College Hoops Delimma

I thought this was a very interesting piece on players leaving early, from the Orlando Sentinel. Some interesting points:

- 59 players will be selected in the draft
- 94 underclassmen and foreign players have declared for the draft
- Of these, 13 are high school players, 7 college frosh, 8 sophomores
- Not likely to be more than 6 college seniors drafted.
- There were 27 high school seniors drafted between 1996-2003 TOTAL!!!

Quote from the article -

"The flood of high schoolers and college underclassmen to the NBA in the past five years has left college basketball almost devoid of elite players. The game has become one of solid team play rather than exceptional individual talent."
. I'm sorry, they make this sound like a BAD thing! What the heck - give me a break. That is what made GT's season so great - at least for GT fans. The lack of a "superstar" on the GT team probably hurt our ability to win fans from other parts of the country. But for current GT fans, it made for an absolutely magical and memorable season.

Notice that Coach Cremins is quoted in the article, and completely takes the blame for Stephon Marbury:
"Eight years ago, the phenom Cremins had spent so much time chasing -- the guy his whole Georgia Tech team was built around -- headed for the NBA door after only one year with the Yellow Jackets. Not long after, people whispered that not only had Stephon Marbury destroyed Georgia Tech, he had destroyed Cremins' job, too.

"That's not true," Cremins insists. "What killed me was I didn't have foresight. Stephon had every right to turn pro, and he should have. I just fell asleep at the wheel."

It's a unique perspective from a coach who had his share of early exits, including Kenny Anderson, who declared for the NBA after his sophomore season. Cremins says it's not the high schoolers who are lottery picks who are hurting college basketball and the NBA; instead, it's the second-tier guys, the ones lured by visions of big-money shoe contracts and supposed first-round selections that simply don't exist.

"We all have problems with the kids who are not going to get drafted high, who are not going to be getting guaranteed money and guaranteed shoe contracts," Cremins says. "We don't what some of those idiots are thinking."
You know he is right. It's not the Stephon Marbury's that are going to hurt the college game - it's the Josh Powells and the soon to be written story of Donta Smith. Guys who are listening to the rhetoric of sleazy agents standing on every street corner, willing to tell them what they want to hear.

In my opinion, the rush of players to the NBA is actually only going to level the playing field. After all, what is Duke going to be without Livingston, UNC without JR Smith, Louisville with Telfair / D.Smith, etc. The elite programs get the elite players. Now it's a roulette game for them. Rick Pittino played and lost. Tubby Smith played and won. But the Dukes / AZ's / UConn's will find it harder and harder to reach the top year-in and year-out like they used to. Competition will no longer be the top 5 spots clearly separated from 10-20. Now anyone in the top 25 can win it all. All bets are off.

While we are at it, let's not write off college hoops. It is still much more exciting than the NBA, still getting good ratings, still nothing compares to March madness. College hoops will be fine. It is just a new wrinkle in the recruitment and talent building process. Coaches have to develop strategies to take this wrinkle into consideration. The ones who do it well will win more often.