Rudy Gay: College Basketball Needs You
I wouldíve given you a call, but Iím sure your voicemail
is full. Scouts, family members, and friends all sending commiserating
messages over a season cut too short or inquisitive messages about whether
or not youíre now planning to enter the NBA Draft.
While I do wish to send my condolences to you and the
rest of the Husky family, you can count me among those who are curious about
that future of yours.
You see, I just really donít want to see you enter the
draft. Not yet, at least.
After losing to 11th seeded George Mason on
Sunday, you summed up all of your crisscrossing emotions in three little
ďIt just hurts,Ē you explained.
But it didnít just hurt. It felt like a thousand wasps
simultaneously stinging your heart. And now, as you lay on your couch
reliving that pain through SportsCenterís endless tournament coverage, your
mind is frenetic. So many questions about the past, the present, and Ė most
importantly Ė the future. As you scratch your 19-year old forehead, I bet
you canít think of one solid reason why you shouldnít say goodbye to the
quiet New England town, skip the final two years of your eligibility, and
head to the pros.
Well, Iíve got one.
But before I give it to you, let me tell you that I
understand your predicament. I get why youíve probably picked out the
perfect pin-striped suit and already started thinking of a cool way to shake
David Sternís hand.
After all, for the past two years, youíve seen the NCAA
make serious scratch off you. You see all the #22 UConn jerseys in stores
and you must figure Pontiac Ė and countless other corporate sponsors Ė are
piling billions on the NCAA doorstep. You might push a button on your
Playstation and disapprove of your likeness on ďNCAA 06 March Madness.Ē
Turns out, Rudy Gay is making an awful lot of money for a
certain collegiate athletic association, but Rudy Gay canít touch any of it.
Plus, Cinderella just punched you in the mouth. It was a
repeat of a season-long pattern. Your teamís lackadaisical play allowed for
a weaker, more passionate squad to hang around for too long. But this time
they actually finished you off. Turns out Denham Brown, Marcus Williams, and
Rashad Anderson canít hit every clutch bucket.
And the worst part is that now everyoneís blaming you.
They say you donít have heart. They say youíre all glitz and no guts.
Theyíre even mistaking your soft spoken demeanor for frailty.
Donít they realize youíre just a sophomore? Donít they
see how much you are just trying to respect your place in the pecking order?
So now you face two options as you attempt to keep warm
until summer sweeps through Storrs. Enter the NBA Draft, making millions off
your contract and subsequent sneaker deals, or return to a blistery cold
ball of collegiate greyness.
Iím writing to suggest you choose the latter.
Not for redemption against the critics or to bring UConn
their third title since 1999. But, to be fair, your return would probably do
both those things.
No, Iím pleading for your return to school because Iím
I care deeply for college basketball and I want to see
you become one of the gameís all-time greats.
The pro scouts love your lithe, 6-foot-9 frame. You
remind some of Grant Hill, while others see you as the next Carmelo Anthony.
Or even Scottie Pippen.
You can defend perimeter players and block shots. Your
hops are matched only by your grace. And your shooting touch is feathery.
No wonder the NBA is smitten. Some team is going to point
to your basketball beauty and make you their June valentine, selecting you
first overall in the draft. Youíll make your money and sport your
diamond-encrusted watches. You wonít even have to decide between Escalades,
Hummers, or Bentleys. You could have them all.
But if you choose to wade into those deep waters, you
will drown into obscurity. You will start for some low level team and have a
fairly solid career. But you will defer to the veterans and feel content to
sit in the shadows. Just like college.
There arenít weaknesses in your game, there are strengths
you sometimes just choose not to utilize. But thatís what scares me. You are
Iím not asking you to stay in school for four years; I
just want you to take a class in domination next season. Your own coach once
described you as having ďBen Gordon Reluctant Superstar Syndrome.Ē Now is
the time to drop the reluctance and add the resolve.
Hog the ball. Attack the glass. Stare down your opponents
in warm-ups until they quiver in their Nikeís.
A handful of the Husky locker room leaders are moving on.
Hilton Armstrong, Denham Brown, and Rashad Anderson are all exiting and
thereís no better time for your arrival.
I donít want to see you drift away like so many other
collegiate stars who chose NBA paychecks over basketball growth. Rodney
White, Eddie Griffin, Chris Wilcox, Jared Jeffries, and Rick Rickert all
possessed similar size and a handful of talent. They were all on the cusp of
dominating the college game, but never figured out how. Itís usually the
type of thing you just donít learn in the pros. Just ask Marvin Williams.
But you can be different. You can be a college basketball
Think it canít be done?
In the early eighties, one of college basketballís most
powerful teams featured a national player of the year and another star ripe
with flair. The two dynamos led their squad to the Final Four.
A freshman, who averaged just over 13 points a game,
watched this two-headed monster take the tourney by storm on their own. He
saw them bathe in countless honors, accolades, and praise.
He coolly waited for his turn and eventually hit a
game-winning jumper in the national championship game. This freshman knew
his chance to dominate on his own would eventually come. And it did.
That freshman was Michael Jordan.
Good luck with your decisionÖ