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Where’s My College Star?

November 10, 2003 Columns No Comments

Have You Seen My College Star?

by Nicholas Lozito

Ever wonder why your favorite college star is currently passing the ball to a guy whose name you can’t pronounce in a country you’ve never heard of? Or maybe you thought he ventured into a high school coaching career until you caught a glimpse of him mingling with a tall blonde at the end of an Eastern Conference bench. It’s a frustrating situation for both you and your local hero, but there is also a logical explanation to this phenomenon: Certain players just aren’t cut out for NBA hoops. And these players fall into three different categories:

1. The sharp-shooting guard who lacks all skills, with the exception of the aforementioned smooth 3-point stroke. It’s obvious that this youngster — let’s call him Trajon Langdon — spent most of his childhood squaring his feet to the basket and flicking his wrist. You see, players like Langdon grew up in rural areas where the competition was either garbage or non-existent. Therefore, skills that could only be picked up through playing top-flight competition, such as ball handling, defense and court awareness, were never developed.

On an elite college team — let’s say Duke — this player often used double teams on teammates down low to free himself for open jumpers. But when it came to NBA ball, where scorers must be able to create their own shot, Langdon’s offensive game was rendered useless. In college ball, his poor defense could be disguised within a zone. In the League, it’s all broken ankles. Other recent collegians who suffer from shooter-itis are A.J. Guyton and Casey Jacobsen. Duke’s J.J. Reddick is a prime candidate.

2. Our second sad story lies within the undersized center who attempts to make up for a lack of height and athleticism with excess muscle or weight. This scheme often works at the collegiate level, where centers can be as short as 6-foot-7. However, when they enter the NBA, most of these big men are forced to develop an outside game and move to a forward position. Some players, such as Kenyon Martin and Elton Brand, are able to make an easy transition. Others like former Maryland star and No. 1 pick Joe Smith find themselves searching for a position, a team and a few extra inches.

Good footwork and a variety of low-post moves will only get you so far. A knack for the ball and sheer hustle (see Sir Charles) needs to kick in at some point in order to succeed as an undersized big man in the NBA. If not, were looking at the next Danny Fortson, Ed O’Bannon or Corliss Williamson.

3. Your final classic NBA failure story isn’t so sad, because it often ends with a lucrative coaching career. We’re talking about the unathletic and undersized point guard who looks to slow down the game at every opportunity and get the ball into the hands of his scorers. Usually a conference leader in assists, this coach-on-the-court is almost always pulled aside by reporters following the game, leading many fans to believe he is a sure-fire first round pick in the upcoming draft. This presumption would be dead wrong, as athleticism currently reigns supreme in the NBA — “headsy” players may want to start working on their play-by-play skills.

The poster child for the point guard-turned-coach trend is former Duke standout Steve Wojciechowski, who now serves as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. (By the way, if I changed the spelling of my last name to Lqowzeyitoe (the “q” is silent), would my basketball I.Q. not shoot up about 20 points?)

So if you’re still waiting for the second coming of Boston College’s Bill Curley, Arizona’s Michael Wright or Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress, forget about it. It’s not going to happen. Your better off waiting for “Gigli 2.”


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