While most of the country was sold on the David vs. Goliath cliché that was Butler vs. Duke in the NCAA national championship, a few alternate storylines were severely underplayed:
- Butler, as David, featured not a single player to be listed on rivals.com‘s annual lists of the 150 best high school recruits in the country. Say what you will about talent, but Butler proved basketball is the ultimate team game, even if they came up three points shy of reinforcing the fact.
- Duke, as Goliath, is one of the few traditional powerhouses where one-and-done players are simply unwelcome. Programs like Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Texas have lowered their standards to accept players interested in killing a year while they wait to become eligible to play in the NBA. Not Duke. The Blue Devils — college basketball’s so-called evil empire — won its national championship with players who bought into coach Mike Krzyzewski’s vision and put aside their NBA aspirations.
Starting Friday, I’m covering the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, OR, which has become the premier showcase for under 19 talent in the U.S. and around the world.
Several of the players appearing may fall into that dreaded category of one-and-done players who forego a sophomore college basketball season for the promise of riches. However, some may have been influenced by last night’s game, seeing what’s possible if they commit to a team and a program for just a few years.
For those who don’t know, college basketball recruitment has become a multimillion-dollar industry of its own. Several Web sites and media outlets have devoted entires staffs and publications to the analysis of high school talent as young as 14 years old. Of the 10 American players participating in the Nike Hoop Summit, eight have already selected a college, putting to end years of scrutiny and observation by college coaches and scouts alike.
Can you imagine what it’s like being 16, labeled the best basketball player in the country for your age, looked upon as the final piece to someday lead a program to a national championship? At 16, my only concern was fighting acne, keeping chunks of food out of my braces and passing algebra.
I’m acting as the West Coast correspondent for Nashville SportsRadio WNSR 560 AM this weekend, cutting interviews for Sports Xtra with Jeff Thurn and Henry Nichols. Jeff and I go back to the eight grade B-team at Memorial Middle School in Sioux Falls, SD. Nonetheless, I’m happy for the opportunity.
There’s plenty to ask these young superstars regarding their college selection, preparations to play at the next level and what it’s like to be done with the recruitment process. That’s all fine and good, but I’m really interested to hear what the players thought of the national title game.
I don’t agree with the NBA age limit, which requires basketball players be at least one year removed from high school and 19 years old to enter the draft. I feel if you have the talent to play in the NBA at a young age, you should. At 18, you’re an adult. The age limit has wreaked havoc on the college game and I can’t say the NBA is any better because its players have an extra year of maturity.
I want to know what it was like, as a top recruit in the country, to witness a college basketball played before 70,000 fans on a national TV audience. Last night’s game easily trumped whatever NBA Finals matchup we’re subjected to this year. True that none of the players from Duke or Butler made millions. But they had the opportunity to play in one of the most memorable basketball games anyone has ever seen.
That’s got to count for something. Not only should a game like last night’s convince some of these kids to put their NBA dreams on hold. Last night should’ve reshaped their dreams completely.