V-MAIL | July 11
Q: How good do you think Hakim Warrick will turn out? I think he'll turn out to be a great player who could be the reason why Syracuse wins again next year. -- Nathan, Tucson, Arizona
VITALE -- I've picked Warrick, who will be a junior, to be on one of my top three All-America teams. I feel he will have a phenomenal year. His confidence should be up after last season, when he was one of the most improved players in America. With Carmelo Anthony moving on to the NBA's Denver Nuggets as the draft's No. 3 pick -- and I feel the Pistons will eventually eat their hearts out for not taking him at No. 2 -- Warrick should have a big, big season.
Q: What's wrong with this sentence: "19-year-old signs $90 million contract with Nike." Yes, LeBron James is awesome, but giving a 19-year-old $90 million before he steps on the court is going over the edge. What's the deal? -- Will Salter, Montgomery, Alabama
|LeBron James shows off his new colors after being picked by Cleveland in the NBA draft.|
VITALE -- You can't resent the kid for signing that deal. Any of us would have taken the money. I believe he will live up to it all. Who else would draw 15,000 fans to a summer-league run in Orlando? That's all it was, really, just running up and down the floor.
This kid has, according to the latest terminology, street cred -- the credibility that people look for. Nike CEO Phil Knight is a money machine; no way does he give James $90 million unless he thinks he's going to make $100 million!
Q: How do you think Marquette will do without Dwyane Wade this season? -- Colin, Greendale, Wisconsin
VITALE -- The big news for Marquette was coach Tom Crean's decision to stay there. He was widely considered to be the favorite for the Illinois job left vacant when Bill Self went to Kansas. But Crean decided to stay put, signing a long-term contract extension. With Crean's leadership and ability, the Golden Eagles have a nice nucleus coming back. Guard Travis Diener has the potential to be a star. I look for their great shooter, Steve Novak, to be one of the premier 3-point specialists in America. He should have a big year.
Q: I'm a huge Missouri fan, and I'm wondering if you think the Tigers have a shot at the Final Four in 2004 with their new recruits. What do you say? -- Andrew, Lee's Summit, Missouri
VITALE -- Absolutely. I love the makeup of this team. Rickey Paulding is one of the best players in America. He will have a big-time year on the perimeter. Arthur Johnson will be a dominant force inside if he develops consistency. He has to do it every night. Johnson will be a man-child in the middle.
Q: How much of an impact do you think Charlie Villanueva can make for UConn? Do you think he can do what Carmelo Anthony did at Syracuse and lead the Huskies to a championship and win the national freshman-of-the-year award? -- Tim Cooper, Windsor Locks, Connecticut
VITALE -- He certainly comes in with a lot of publicity. Anthony lived up to his billing last year with the Orangemen, right out of the gate when I called his first game against Memphis at Madison Square Garden. Villanueva played with Luol Deng in New Jersey, and Deng will star next year at Duke. I expect Villanueva to be a fine player for the Huskies. The thing he has going for him is the surrounding talent. Junior center Emeka Okafor and junior guard Ben Gordon will be a great help. If Villanueva is half as good as people say he is, he'll be a force for coach Jim Calhoun's Huskies.
Q: Do you think Chris Bosh can be a superstar in the NBA? Some compare him to Kevin Garnett, and many compare him to Jermaine O'Neal. I'm afraid he might be closer to a Joe Smith or Marcus Camby. Thanks, can't wait to hear your opinion. -- Frank, Toronto, Canada
VITALE -- Bosh is a kid with a world of potential. If you want to use the term upside, it certainly fits him. He is young, just like Mike Dunleavy when he came into the NBA, who eventually will be a good pro player. But Dunleavy struggled for a while last year. I think Bosh may struggle for a while out of the gate because the expectations will be so high. He can go inside/outside, and he's a finesse player for his size. Bosh has to get stronger and show more consistency; he disappeared at times for Georgia Tech.
Q: Many people counted Maryland out of the running for the national championship this season after the loss of Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton and Chris Wilcox. We proved those people wrong, but next season, it seems they're doing the same after losing Steve Blake and Co. How do you think Maryland will fare this year with the young squad led by John Gilchrist? -- Kenny, College Park, Maryland
VITALE -- I like Gilchrist. I like his body strength, and he got some good quality minutes last year. He was productive backing up Blake, but it's a different game playing 35 minutes instead of 17. The Terps have a constant in the emotion and teaching ability of coach Gary Williams. They have had great recruiting success. You can count on Maryland being in the hunt.
Q: Michigan State has been one of the most successful teams in the country over the past 8-10 years, largely because of coach Tom Izzo. What will it take for the casual fan as well as the national media to view the Spartans and Izzo in the same way they see Coach K and Duke or even Gary Williams and Maryland -- as the elite program and coach that they are? -- Brian Zuckerberg, Phoenix, Arizona
VITALE -- You have to do it year in and year out. Izzo himself said it best, claiming his team has to do it several more years before being among the Super Seven programs. I pick the Super Seven based on tradition and success over a long haul. I'm talking about Arizona and UCLA in the Pac-10, Duke and North Carolina in the ACC, Kansas in the Big 12, Kentucky in the SEC and Indiana in the Big Ten. Those programs have done it for so many years. Michigan State is in the next wave. I write about that in my new book, "Living a Dream: 25 Years Sitting at Courtside with the Best Seat in the House." By the way, you can also get up in the morning to my Dickie V alarm clock! It's becoming a hot item, baby!
Q: As a college basketball coach, I believe that your article on the firing of Rick Carlisle was right on the money. Who's next, Coach K? The Carlisle firing was the most ridiculous thing I have seen in a long time. Looking forward to meeting you one day when I see you're on the West Coast. God bless. -- Coach Tim Cook, Cal Baptist University, Riverside, California
VITALE -- I hope I get a chance to meet you too, Tim. Thanks for your comments. I think the Rick Carlisle situation was about more than W's and L's. I talked to insiders with the Detroit Pistons, and they felt it was a communication problem. But that wasn't grounds for firing after what he accomplished. He should have been told up front that unless things changed and he worked together with everyone in the office, something would happen. He did win 50 games two straight seasons. He took the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals. It will be tough to maintain that even with the addition of Darko Milicic to go with Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. The new coach, Larry Brown, is certainly a Hall of Famer.
Q: What is your take on the recruiting that coach Stan Heath and staff have done at Arkansas? First, they sign Olu Famutimi and Ronnie Brewer. They also have an oral commitment from Big Al Jefferson. Could the Hogs be on their way back to the glory days of the early-to-mid 1990s? -- Marcus, Jonesboro, Arkansas
VITALE -- Jefferson is one of the best big men in America, but will he make it to the collegiate ranks or go right to the NBA? Look at what happened with Travis Outlaw, Kendrick Perkins and Ndudi Ebi, who said that if they had a guarantee to be a first-round pick, they would take the money. Let's hope Heath can get Jefferson in a Razorback uniform. I believe Arkansas is moving in the right direction, and Heath is popular with the fans down there.