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BASIC BIITTNER: No Seniors?

Monday, April 21, 2008

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Well, the Final Fours are over, and Kansas and Tennessee are the champions of NCAA basketball for 2008. A job well done, and thanks to all the fine young athletes who entertained us over the past couple of weeks.

A week or two ago, the All-American teams were named, and, on the Men's team, an interesting thing happened. Of the five players named on the first team, NOT A ONE was a Senior! This is the first time this has occurred, but probably won't be the last. What was truly amazing to me was the fact that many sportswriters seemed astounded by the fact that there were no seniors named to the "elite team." To this I say - "Where the **** have you guys been lately? Have you had your head in the sand or the sandwich or what?"

No one who follows major college basketball should be surprised at the lack of seniors on the All-America team. The fact is, there just aren't a lot of seniors -"quality" seniors, as they say- who choose to stay in college and play four seasons, because they can "jump" early and take the big bucks from an NBA team.

As I recall, this first started with a youngster named Spencer Haywood, who played one year of junior college hoops and one year of college ball before he decided he wanted to turn pro. NBA rules prohibited such a thing at the time (Wilt Chamberlain left early, but had to play for the Globetrotters before he could enter the NBA), so Haywood signed with the rival ABA, a second "major league" (a common thing in all the pro sports then). Haywood became a star immediately, and eventually forced his way into the NBA through a Supreme Court ruling and had a productive career, primarily with the Seattle Supersonics.

Haywood's success on the court and IN cort kind of "opened the floodgates." as it were. The next thing you knew, a couple of big guys named Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins, who didn't attend college at all, were playing in the league. Dawkins was capable of some spectacular, backboard-breaking dunks, but "Dr. Dunkenstein" never really developed into an all-around player. Malone, on the other hand, went on to a Hall of Fame career, leading the 76ers to the title one year.

Long story short - many, many players since that time have skipped college, or cut their college careers short. Look at the NBA today - top players Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady never played college ball, and others such as Alan Iverson had brief college careers. Heck, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan didn't play their full four years. The last major star to finish four years of college before entering the NBA was Tim Duncan.

I'm not saying this is good or bad - I mean, many people feel the real talented players are just "wasting time and taking up space that real students could use" in the classroom. My point is, the days of an All-American team brimming with senior superstars is over. Last year's top two NBA picks were both freshmen

This year's team, by the way, consisted of Juniors Tyler Hansborough and Chris Douglas-Roberts, sophomore D.J. Augustin, and freshmen Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. There were two seniors chosen on the second team and none on the third team.

Already since the season ended, Indiana's star freshman has declared for the NBA Draft, and speculation has been raised about fellow freshmen standouts Beasley, Love, and Derrick Rose.

I have not listed the college affiliations of any of the above players because - face it - few people will remember where they dropped in, before they dropped out.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner