V-MAIL | Oct. 6
Q: How do you think the Arizona Wildcats will fare this year? Now that Jason Gardner and Luke Walton are gone, will Hassan Adams, Salim Stoudamire and Andre Iguodala step up enough to be back in the top 10? -- Greg, Staten Island, New York
VITALE -- Coach Lute Olson is a winner, and this year will be no different. Yes, Arizona lost some talent, but sophomores Adams and Iguodala will have an impact. I also love the diaper dandy, Mustafa Shakur, who should be among the top newcomers in America. He should make an immediate difference. Stoudamire can flat-out shoot the rock, but he has to be consistent. Arizona will be a top-10 team and right up there in the Pac-10.
Q: I love your Web site as well as your approach to the game of college basketball. Being a diehard Kansas Jayhawks fan, where do you see Kansas finishing nationally in 2003-04? Can coach Bill Self win the national championship in his first year in Lawrence? Key returnees are Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, Jeff Graves and Michael Lee. And a great recruiting class could give Kansas the edge in the Big 12. What do you think? -- Bryan Snead, York, Pennsylvania
VITALE -- Thanks for your kind words. Replacing former coach Roy Williams (now at North Carolina) won't be easy. He's a tough act to follow. Bill Self is the right guy for the job, tough. He's a bright young leader, one of the rising stars along with Marquette's Tom Crean. Self deals with people in a positive way, and he'll be able to sell the great history and tradition at Kansas. He's already made a great impact in a short time there. Kansas has an outstanding cast coming back, a healthy Wayne Simien plus a group of diaper dandies who can flat-out play. Things are looking up in Lawrence. National championship? We'll have to wait and see...
Q: I see progress with Arkansas Razorbacks coach Stan Heath and the new Hogs! He seems to have instilled a positive attitude, and I'm seeing players develop, not remain status quo after arrival. He is definitely recruiting the top-level athlete. How do you see the Hogs progressing and when do you envision them being back? Best wishes, and keep up the excellent work! -- Mark Deaton, Fayetteville, Arkansas
VITALE -- Heath has made an impact in the recruiting wars there, busting his gut. He is respected, coming from a great background after serving as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State before doing a solid job at Kent State. Heath came into a situation where there was lots of controversy in Razorback Country revolving around the departure of former coach Nolan Richardson. But the young coach is starting to get his own identity there. This is an important year as Arkansas tries to get back into postseason tournament action, at least an NIT bid. It won't be easy, because the SEC is loaded.
Q: It seems that the media and corporate America are rushing to make LeBron James the second coming of Michael Jordan. I seem to recall the Jordan phenomena naturally occurring, based solely on his consistent circus-like performances night after night. Jordan seemed to grow into his epic-like status, but LeBron seems to have it all handed to him up front. Your thoughts on this topic would be awesome, baby! -- Kevin Ryan, USA
VITALE -- I don't buy the argument that it was handed to LeBron. The kid has gone out and handled every challenge thrown his way early in his career. LeBron has great personality, charisma and terrific talent. He also has the size (6-8, 240) to perform in the NBA. People don't give away that kind of cash, as Nike did, unless they think they can make it back. A kid like that doesn't rate just based on personality, it's skills that are evaluated as well. He was the clear-cut, No. 1 pick in the draft, he has the body of an NBA player, he has handled adversity when controversy has been in his way. He has looked in the camera and handled it the right way. He's shown he can make a major impact in the NBA from the moment his season begins.
Q: Michigan State guard Kelvin Torbert was supposed to be unreal, according to recruiting analysts. So it looks like they were way wrong, doesn't it? His jump shot makes me sick to my stomach. -- Jason, Cincinnati, Ohio
|Spartans guard Kelvin Torbert shot 42% from the field and 32% from 3-point range last season.|
VITALE -- Torbert is another victim of great publicity coming out of high school. He's a guy who was considered a sure thing. As a high-school senior, he was the 2001 Sporting News Player of the Year and the 2001 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year. It can be difficult to live up to that.
Torbert, who is a junior this year, has had some good moments. But you're right, his jump shot is suspect -- that's one part of his game that can be questioned. He shoots the ball on the way down instead of on the way up. It's easy for us to say, and coaches have tried to rectify that. A lot of it becomes mental. This kid is certainly a talent, but he has had so much pressure with expectations. I believe people respond in different ways to that pressure.
Q: You're the only person in college basketball I wanna meet, but I have a question: I'm going to juco this season. What do I have to do to be recruited by a D-I team? -- Braheim, Wilmington, Delaware
VITALE -- Thanks for your comments. I am flattered and honored that you want to meet me, and I hope someday we can make that happen. We'll see about my schedule at ESPN; I'd love to spend some time with you. As for junior college, having never seen you play, I don't know the level of your talent. Be the best you can be -- look in the mirror and know you gave your best. Hit the books academically and make sure you get the necessary credits. Listen to your coaches and do what they say. Be as positive a person as you can be. If you're talented enough to play in Division I, the call will come. Today, everybody finds out about players -- there are no secrets out there. If you have the ability, they will find you. If it doesn't work out that way, you can move into a different area, maybe coaching, media, whatever. Be the best person you can be -- that's the best advice I can give you.