Perception is Not Reality
Eight of the top ten picks in this year's NBA Draft
were college players. Only two of them had less than
three years of college experience.
If you've read one of the oh-so-many obituaries of
college game in recent years, you may want to make
sure you're sitting down and read that first
Is college basketball as talented as it was before
Kevin Garnett changed the basketball world forever?
No. Is the margin as big as the gloom-and-doom crowd
would have you believe? No.
This past summer, during Mike Krzyzewski's
to either become the next coach of the Lakers or to
stay at Duke (which he, of course, eventually
decided to do), we've
heard how his departure would be a symbolic death
knell of the college game. With Luol Deng departing
after one year and Shaun Livingston never showing up
in Durham, not even Coach K can beat 'em, so he has
Fact is, it's still a very small handful of players
that we've really missed out on seeing in college.
you want to get down to it, only Kevin Garnett, Kobe
Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and LeBron James would have
brought something to the college game that we've
really missed out on. No one else did anything that
haven't seen done by plenty of players.
Would Dwight Howard, Kwame Brown, or even Jermaine
O'Neal have done anything in the college game that,
say, Drew Gooden, Emeka Okafor, Nick Collison or
David West didn't do in recent years?
Would Sebastian Telfair have done anything at
Louisville that we haven't seen other freshman
like Raymond Felton, Chris Paul, T.J. Ford, or Dee
Brown do in recent years?
Would J.R. Smith have shown up at North Carolina and
taken the reigns from Rashad McCants?
And this brings us to the crux of this matter; the
perception that players that skip college are
automatically more talented or would be better
players than those in college is flat wrong.
Take McCants, for example. He can score in every
possible way, and has every attribute you could want
for a shooting guard - except he's a shade under
6'4". And J.R. Smith is 6'7". That's why J.R. Smith
a Hornet and McCants a Tar Heel. Not because Smith
better. He's not.
But in college, those couple of inches don't really
mean a thing.
Take Syracuse's Hakim Warrick, possibly the best
player in the nation next season. If he was two
taller, he'd have been a top-three pick this year as
power forward. If he had a good jump shot, he'd be a
top-three pick as a small forward. But 6'9" guys
his elite athleticism and otherwise skills don't
nor would they often use, outside jumpers in the
Warrick, or Ryan Gomes, or Wayne Simien,
any other college star who's such a flawed, mediocre
player that they (gasp!) are actually still in
would be every bit as good in 1995 or 1985 as they
will be in 2005. Some act as if this is the NBA,
and they'd be going up against Amare Stoudamire or
Dwight Howard four times a season.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the
college game hasn't taken a hit from the prep-to-pro
guys. I'm not that naive.
What I'm telling you is that reports of the college
game's demise have been greatly exaggerated.