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Vol. 50, No. 2 • January 2013 • .pdf version
Search for Most Courageous candidates is ongoing
By FRANK BURLISON
LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. – There are a lot of inspiring stories on the college basketball front and not all of them involve late-game jump shots or defensive stands.
One of my tasks as a USBWA officer is to search out and sort through as many potential candidates for the USBWA "Most Courageous Awards" (one each for men and women) that will be presented in Atlanta during Final Four weekend.
Via solicitations to conference and institution basketball media directors – and via forwarded story links from other USBWA officers (thank you, Coach Akers) – I've already been alerted to the compelling stories of several obvious candidates of both genders.
But I'd be disappointed if I missed out on other strong candidates because I didn't do enough due diligence.
So I'm asking you to provide me with some of your "diligence," if you don't mind.
Please drop me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the names of the man or woman – or both – that you believe merit consideration for the respective honors, along with brief backgrounds into their stories, as well as links to any media reports on them.
As the USBWA membership directory details so succinctly, "The U.S. Basketball Writers Association annually recognizes a player, coach, official or administrator who has demonstrated extraordinary courage reflecting honor on the sport of amateur basketball." So that leaves a lot of leeway for candidates to come from any level of college hoops and any position remotely connected to it from within a campus or conference office.
What better example of the "instant gratification age" that exists, as in so many avenues of society, squarely in the world of college basketball than the rush to judgment when it comes to heavily touted freshmen?
Less than a month – in some cases, just five or six games – there have already been a litany of one-year players being designated as various degrees of "disappointments" because their play hasn't been nearly as productive and/or spectacular as had been projected by the recruiting or NBA draft "gurus" that are referenced so liberally within media reports.
The problem with that rush to judgment, of sorts, is multi-fold:
For one, shouldn't a player be allowed at least as entire season before he is anointed as "every bit as good as the gurus touted" or "a flop"?
Some players, through emotional or physical maturity (remember, there are a lot of players entering college hoops these days as 20-year-old freshmen, because of being "held back" a year in middle school or high school, or a year at a "prep school"), are not as advanced as a lot of their heavily touted peers.
Or, in many instances, they weren't exposed to the caliber of fundamental coaching needed to make a smooth and successful adjustment to college hoops from Jump Street.
Secondly, those doing the "touting" of said players when they were on the high school (or prep school levels) sometimes didn't do a quality job of evaluating those players' "skills" and "potential" for success on the college level.
There are a lot of "recruiting reporters" who do a superb job of tracking down players' college choices and in creating a network of "sources" who tip them off when a player has "committed" or is about to do so.
Their ability to sit down and watch high school players and break down why they are – or aren't – quality prospects isn't quite as effective, however.
And most of those certainly aren't qualified to riff on a 17-, 18- or 19-year-old's ability to "be a pro" or "play in the league (aka, NBA)".
As someone who has watched, and written about, the vast majority of the better high school, college and NBA players since the late 1970s, I feel I'm more qualified than most to comment on the potential of a players success in college and then, possibly, in the NBA.
And it's almost a hit-and-miss proposition – hopefully, I've hit a lot more evaluations than I've missed.
Always be cautious when quoting, or using as background reference, someone who refers to a high school standout or college player as "a sure-fire pro." That phrase is so often spouted by someone who really has no idea how difficult it is to get drafted, much less stick on an NBA roster.
Being prudent in writing or discussing a player's "potential" in college and the NBA is always the best policy.
Doing so will help you avoid the feeling that you need to declare that player a "disappointment" even before he has suited up for his first conference game.
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