SportsProf

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Friday, June 18, 2004

Go West, Young Man (or Not Quite -- or Quietly)

Last year, the big story in Philadelphia college hoops during the post-season was whether St. Joe's guard Jameer Nelson would forsake his senior year on Hawk Hill and enter the NBA draft. After a stellar junior year, Nelson participated in post-season workouts to assess where he would fall in the 2003 NBA draft, and he learned that he wasn't going to be a first-round pick. So, he returned to St. Joe's for his senior year, won many Player of the Year awards, and now will be a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft (originally projected to be a lottery pick, Nelson will probably go anywhere from 19th to 25th in the first round). Needless to say, Nelson made a very wise decision.

What hasn't been said is that it's tough for twenty or twenty-one year olds who are outstanding at their craft to make a decision that requires such wisdom. After all, part of what defines their greatness is their belief in themselves to do amazing things on the court. So it's hard for a great player to entertain the type of doubts necessary to make the type of wise decision Nelson did. As a result, Nelson tempered his belief in his own ability, listened to some excellent advice, worked very hard on his game, and he'll get guaranteed money this summer. He did have confidence in his overall game, but he weighed that against a tough self-assessment that he did need to improve.

But Nelson was an unusual college junior whose career admittedly was on the bubble -- to stay or to go was a hard choice -- until he learned he wouldn't be taken in the first round. To stay or to go was a very tough decision. Others might have taken the plunge, even if it meant falling into the second round. Why? Because deep in their hearts they believe they can play with anyone.

As does Delonte West, the two guard for the St. Joe's Hawks during the past two seasons, Robin to Nelson's Batman, the "other" guard who starred for this nifty mid-major team and helped them get to within a few baskets of the Final Four. Listed as a 6'4" shooting guard, but measured as a 6'2" tweener, West was told that he would need to learn to play the point-guard position to make it in the NBA.

And, to a degree, he did make the conversion, and he did impress scouts with his versatility both at the NBA evaluations (including the recent one at the Moody Bible Institute outside Chicago) and in private workouts for teams. But while he impressed many scouts, he didn't impress them enough to displace other guards out of the first round. Which meant that were he not to elect to pull out of the NBA draft, Delonte West would be taking the risk of a contract without any guaranteed money.

Which is precisely what he did. Yesterday at noon was the deadline for underclassmen without agents to pull out of the NBA draft, but Delonte West did not do so. Instead, he opted to remain, rolling the dice on a promising career. True, there is a shot that he could turn into another Steve Blake or Keith Bogans, and, despite not being a first-round pick, finish among the top 20 rookies in minutes played. True, he could end up being the one who slipped through the complicated radar screens that the NBA puts up to review prospects.

Truer, though, that West would have been wise to follow in the footsteps of his now former teammate, Nelson, return to St. Joe's, play the point, hone his craft in a serious way, and then emerge as a top PG prospect in the 2005 NBA draft. The reasons for West to return to Hawk Hill were more compelling than those for Nelson, in that Nelson already knew how to play PG, he just needed to take his game to a higher level. In West's case, he needs to prove he can play PG, to add to his value. Going tback for his senior year at St. Joe's would have enabled him to do just that.

Instead, Delonte West has decided to take the plunge and jump into basketball's deep end, the National Basketball Association. The odds are that he might last in the league for a couple of years, perhaps at the end of someone's bench, perhaps getting 10-day contracts here and there and shuttling back from the CBA to the NBA. And it's hard to say whether the odds would be any better for Delonte West had he opted to go back to college for his senior year.

The June 24 NBA draft now will contain the guards who formed the best backcourt in college basketball this past season. The forecast for the duo is partly sunny, partly cloudy.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love College Basketball. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link http://allsportsmarket.com
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for College Basketball this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps
-Erik

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