The way it should be: March Madness winds up this week after a
month of showcasing the best college-age basketball players in
The way it is: March Madness winds up this week after a month of
showcasing about half of the best college-age players. The other
half are holding down folding chairs in the NBA and trying to
remember if they're in Cleveland or Memphis.
Guys like Kirk Haston, who would have been a senior at Indiana
this season, and Zach Randolph, a would-be Michigan State
sophomore, aren't getting more than six minutes a game in the
NBA. Omar Cook, who would have been a sophomore at St. John's,
is making $27,500 in the National Basketball Development League.
"Missing Senior Night hurt," says Haston, who sits on the
Charlotte Hornets' bench. "I wrote my speech my freshman year."
The way it should be: No. 1 seed DePaul, with seniors Quentin
Richardson and Bobby Simmons, junior Steve Hunter and freshman
Eddy Curry, is favored to win the NCAA title for coach Pat
The way it is: Kennedy resigned last month after DePaul went
9-19, mostly because those players are all in the NBA. "With
those four guys," Kennedy says with a sigh, "we could've started
the janitor at point guard and won the national title."
The way it should be: Basketball has never been healthier.
College players roll out of the star-making machinery of March
Madness, graduate and then move on to the glory of the NBA.
The way it is: Basketball has never been sorrier. The quality of
play in college and the pros is lower than Mini-Me's knees. The
underclassmen-riddled NCAA champions of today would get their
tattoos rearranged by the senior-dominated teams of the past. The
NBA is paying millions to babies in the hope that they grow up to
be men. Many of the teenagers lose their confidence and bust like
Yugos, leaving a void of real stars in the pros. Or do you think
it's a good thing that Allen Iverson is about to win the scoring
title with the lowest shooting percentage since 1948?
The way it should be: Freshman Kwame Brown leads Florida into the
Final Four, a moment he has dreamed of since the sixth grade.
The way it is: Kwame Brown, the NBA's No. 1 draft choice last
summer, traded that dream for a spot on the Washington Wizards'
bench. As the NCAA tournament plays out, the 20-year-old Brown
will be winding up a 13-day, seven-game road trip. "Man, I really
miss my bed," he says. He sat in a hotel room and watched
helplessly as the school he signed with, Florida, lost in the
first round. "I think I was in Portland," he recalls. "Or was it
L.A.?" (Actually, it was Seattle.)
The way it should be: Fans thrilled to the moves of Duke
All-America Kobe Bryant, Michigan star Kevin Garnett and
Kentucky hero Tracy McGrady.
The way it is: Accountants thrilled to the moves of Bryant,
Garnett and McGrady, all of whom jumped from high school to a
paycheck in the pros.
The way it should be: College basketball is still buzzing about
the brother-versus-brother Sweet 16 matchup last week of UCLA
senior JaRon Rush against Missouri junior Kareem Rush.
The way it is: Kareem played for Missouri, which advanced to the
Elite Eight, but JaRon is out of basketball. He turned pro two
years ago, wasn't drafted and flopped out of three leagues this
season alone--the NBA, the NBDL and the new ABA. He's a recovering
alcoholic. "I tell my brother, 'Keep your options open,'" says
JaRon. "Agents ain't always looking out for your best interests."
The way it should be: The NCAA and the NBA have teamed to teach
players just how Spam-brained it is to turn pro early; how most
players who stay in college four years end up making
Brinks-trucks-more money over their careers than those who quit
or skip college; how Pell grants and Exceptional Student-Athlete
Disability Insurance can get them through their senior season.
The way it is: Fueled by Internet misinformation that inflates
their draft value and seduced by wormy agents, more and more
college stars are sabotaging their careers by turning pro early.
In the 2001 draft 54 underclassmen entered early, but only 36
were drafted, and five of those are already out of the league.
The way it should be: Kareem Rush, Carlos Boozer of Duke and Drew
Gooden of Kansas announce they'll return for their senior
The way it is: All three will probably be making big impressions
on cushiony folding chairs soon in Memphis.
Or is it Cleveland?
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Half of the best college-age players in America are holding down
folding chairs in the NBA.