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Down with the King

January 29, 2003 Columns No Comments

Down with the King

by Dan Hauptman

We don’t need him.

Let him keep wearing his NBA headband, his socks with the silhouette of Jerry West on them, and worst of all, the “King James” label on his teeth. College basketball is better off without the prospect of LeBron James gracing Chapel Hill, Durham, Columbus or anywhere else with his exaggerated presence.

James has taken all of the media hype surrounding his high school play and believed it to be true enough to change the way he lives.

It is amazing that we are even discussing the way he lives, as he is only 18 years old, barely old enough to drive the Hummer that somehow he rolls in, and at a time in his life when most kids his age are finding out which colleges they got into and where they will be spending the next, and probably best, four years of their lives.

But no, LeBron is out there traveling in limousines, signing autographs for celebrities, and appearing in newspapers and on television every time he touches the orange ball or acts like your not-so-average teenager. It has become more than a joke at this point. The collective amount of attention that James has gotten thus far in his life is bordering on apocalyptic.

As a result, I have 18 (one for each year that he has been alive) words of advice from the college basketball world to the man known to himself as King James: Just drive your SUV to the NBA, and try not to get into another accident on the way.

He does not deserve to play in our game.

Hauptman’s Hits

• Enough already with the fans rushing the court. It is happening a few times a night these days. I can see fans storming the court once in awhile, but like the goalpost-jumping phenomenon that has had an awful and dangerous impact on college football, this silly act has become way too overplayed on hardwood courts all across America. When will it stop!? When a player or coach is trampled by a horde of drunk, delirious fans? I hope we never see that day, but unfortunately, it will probably be upon us sooner than later.

• I know it means nothing in terms of the NCAA Tournament or anything else, but what Tommy Amaker has done with his Michigan Wolverines is simply mind boggling. It reminds me a little of what Frank Robinson did with the Montreal Expos in baseball last season. Robinson had a team that was left for dead playing hard and playing the role of spoiler all season long. Amaker has done the same thing in Ann Arbor the last thirteen games. After beginning the season 0-6, with losses to schools such as St. Bonaventure, Western Michigan and Central Michigan, the Wolverines have not lost since and are currently sitting on top of the Big Ten with a remarkable 6-0 mark in conference games.

If Michigan, which is on self-imposed probation and barred from appearing in the NCAA Tournament this year, continues its conference domination and wins the Big Ten postseason tournament, then the Big Ten’s automatic berth into March’s big dance would go to the school with the best record in the regular season, or second best if Michigan wins the regular season championship as well. Let the ridiculousness continue in the Midwest.

• Of the top 10 teams in the latest Hoopville poll, the only school with a virtually unknown coach is No. 2 Pittsburgh with Ben Howland. Howland is currently in his fourth season at Pittsburgh, and the school has improved every year that he has led the Panthers. In 1999-2000, Howland’s boys finished 13-15. The next season, the Panthers went 19-14 and lost in the second round of the NIT. Last season, Pittsburgh won a school-record 29 games and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. This season, Pitt is 15-1 and on the verge of bring ranked No. 1 in either poll for the first time in school history.

Needless to say, Howland has done a great job at Pittsburgh and his team should be a real candidate for the Final Four come April. However, in order to go from a good team to an elite team, the Panthers have to dramatically improve their free throw shooting. The team is only hitting 61% of its foul shots this season, and the figure goes down to a conference-low 56% in Pittsburgh’s five Big East games. Also, two of Pitt’s best two players, Chevon Troutman (54%) and Brandin Knight (43%), have been absolutely awful from the foul line this season. As Duke and Jason Williams showed the world in last year’s third round tournament loss to Indiana, poor free throw shooting can take down a good team and send the players back to school a lot sooner than expected.


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