Feb. 6, 2004
When you speak to NBA scouting gurus across America, word is running wild that as many as a dozen high-school stars could enter the NBA draft early. Wow, that would be a sad situation.
At Indiana, the Hoosiers are nervous because Josh Smith, who could potentially be the Hoosiers' answer to Carmelo Anthony, is one of the dozen who might go to the pros early. Let's hope Smith ends up on the Indiana campus, puts on that Hoosier jersey and becomes a factor in one of the premier recruiting classes in America. That Indiana group is capable of making noise in the Big Ten.
There's also talk of prep star Dwight Howard being drafted in the top three overall. In that case, one can understand if he leaves for the NBA, because the system is so wacky. It allows kids to become men too early, taking away the possibility of enjoying their youth.
There's talk of prep star Dwight Howard going in the top three in the NBA draft.
Let's hope that some of these kids re-think and re-evaluate their futures. They can't all be the next LeBron James.
Yes, one can understand someone like LeBron, with his mega-talent, jumping straight to the NBA. He was physically, mentally and emotionally ready to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers last June. But what about those who fail to make it? Does anyone remember the former high-school stars who are now basketball vagabonds?
Just look at what happened recently when James Lang, picked 48th overall in the second round of the 2003 draft, was let go by the New Orleans Hornets. Lang could have been developing his game at Kentucky or Louisville, learning from basketball minds like Tubby Smith or Rick Pitino. His stock would have climbed up, up and up, baby!
What about Lenny Cooke and D'Angelo Collins? They could have become prepared and gained valuable experience. Go back to 1998, when Korleone Young was the 40th pick of the draft, chosen by the Detroit Pistons. You haven't heard his name mentioned much lately.
Even many currently on NBA rosters are just sitting there, getting no PT at all -- guys like Kendrick Perkins, Travis Outlaw and Ndudi Ebi (who could have made a difference at Arizona). Sometimes you wonder if high-schoolers drafted in the first round become nothing but three-year guys whose NBA careers are over after their three-year, guaranteed first-round contracts expire. Some of these guys disappear from the basketball landscape at such a young age.
The flip side is someone like Connecticut freshman Charlie Villanueva, who considered jumping straight to the NBA but instead is gaining valuable playing time and experiencing the team concept at UConn.
Think about Darius Miles, who was the third overall pick in the 2000 draft. He came in with the can't-miss label. Yes, he's playing and he has made lots of cash. But already he's bounced around from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Cavaliers and now the Portland Trail Blazers. I wonder how much better he would have been if he had gone through the collegiate ranks. I feel he would have had more stability.
There's nothing like enjoying a collegiate atmosphere. It didn't hurt the likes of David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Grant Hill, who all made their megadollars, got the thrills of their pro careers and also enjoyed the phenomenal college environment.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an analyst for ESPN ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.