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2004-04 NCAA Basketball Preview

Sebastian Telfair: No Hard Feelings

By Wendell Maxey Jr

July 7th


Is it possible to feel bad for a 19-year-old millionaire?


If so, then I am guilty.


Ever since the Portland Trailblazers selected high school phenom point guard Sebastian Telfair with the 13th pick in this year’s NBA draft, I’ve read and heard more negative than positive opinions about Telfair. So I felt compelled to come to the youngster’s aid against the cynics.


But first, I have a confession to make.  I too was once skeptical of Sebastian Telfair. The key word here being “was”.  Things are different now. Telfair will be suiting up in the red, white, and black next year as his contract with Portland has already been inked ($1.3 his rookie season, $4 million the following three years, not to mention a current Adidas deal worth $12 million).  And I am truly excited to see the hype hopefully come true. Unfortunately, some don’t share my enthusiasm. Trust me, I’ve heard all the doubters and the inquiries about “Sabby”. They go a little something like this:


Why pick a high-risk high schooler? He’s not ready for the league. Wasn’t St. Joseph’s Jameer Nelson or another college baller available instead? So what if he’s Stephon Marbury’s cousin, the kid is overrated. And what makes him so special anyway?


These questions and concerns are all legit.  But it doesn’t take an NBA General Manager or Head Coach to see the logic behind the quick selection of Sebastian Telfair in the draft. In fact, there are three particular reasons why the Blazers did what they did, when they did.


The first is most obvious. Sebastian Telfair is a gifted young ball player who knows what it takes to run a basketball team. I’m not lying. I’m for real and so is Sebastian. And as the second prep point guard to ever jump over the collegiate scene and onto the NBA hardwood, he’ll have a chance to show and prove in 2005. The 6’0 Telfair (a generous measurement by any means) stared in the 2004 McDonald’s All-American team and was named to the Parade Magazine All-American Team. Telfair was also a member of the USA Men’s Junior National Selection that competed in San Antonio, ranked first among high school players in various publications, and averaged 33 points and 9 assists per game as a senior at Lincoln High School in New York. Oh yeah, did I mention the kid is infamous for taking it to the rack, dishing, and breaking ankles as a playground legend in Brooklyn since he was 13.  But besides that, Telfair hasn’t accomplished a whole heck of a lot.


The second part of this equation involves a bit of history. By examining the last few NBA drafts, there are several reasons why Telfair was lucky number 13. One reason is the questionable durability of past college point guards chosen in the first round of the draft.  Last year was the exception however. In the 2003 NBA draft, first rounders like Kansas Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich and T.J. Ford of Texas had equally impressive rookie seasons in ’04. Sorry to say, other college point guards in recent years haven’t fared as well. 2002 brought us Duke’s Jay Williams and Gonzaga alum Dan Dickau, and in 2001 it was North Carolina Tar Heel Joseph Forte. And Michigan State Spartan Mateen Cleaves and St. John’s Erick Barkley were the point guards of choice in the first round in 2000. 


So let’s recap, shall we? We have two notables in Hinrich and Ford that actually made a direct impact on their squads, Williams is rehabbing after a brutal motorcycle accident, Dickau and Forte are both current journeyman scrapping for minutes, and the NBDL duo of Cleaves and Barkley are trying to make ends meet in the “D League”. Need I say more? By taking a look at these former campus heroes and current NBA hopefuls, it is no wonder why Telfair went ahead of St. Joseph’s Jameer Nelson or Xavier’s Lionel Chambers. In this case, the college players are more of a gamble than Telfair is at this time. College experience doesn’t always equal NBA success, no matter how much ruckus Dick Vital raises.


Lastly, it would have been only a matter of time before Telfair leaped into the association anyway. Why not get him while you can? I know Rick Patino would love to have him at the University of Louisville. The New York native Patino had his eye on the Lincoln prep star for years, but to no avail. Although Telfair signed a letter of intent to play at Louisville this fall, he decided to try his luck at the draft instead of parlaying a college career. Sorry Rick. But who could blame the kid? He’s charismatic mixed with innocence, a million dollar smile with a kid next-door appeal, and he has all the makings of a P.R. front man.


Not to mention, Sebastian Telfair can ball with the best while reversing the negative opinions of the rest.

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