April 21, 2004
Decisions, decisions, decisions! In my 25 years at ESPN, I've been shocked by some of the decisions made by young athletes. I wonder what the thinking process is when they make significant decisions that affect their lives, whether it's declaring for the draft or transferring.
I think back to last year, when high-school phenom James Lang insisted on declaring for the NBA draft instead of going to college for at least one season. He had to get in great condition and clearly did not accomplish that -- and he wasn't a first-round pick despite someone's promises. He thought about the megadollars and it backfired, and now he's a basketball vagabond.
Think about Kendrick Perkins and Ndudi Ebi, who took the quick money as late first-rounders. They rarely get off the bench in the NBA and thus don't improve their games.
|David Padgett is saying goodbye to Kansas and the Big 12.|
Too often, guys like these stay in the NBA only three years -- until their three-year, first-round guaranteed contracts expire -- and then they bounce around, playing professionally in Europe or in the developmental league.
As for transfers, it's easy for kids to think they can find a place where the grass is greener. They get the idea that to become NBA players they need to play facing the basket in college. That's the rationale regarding freshman David Padgett's recent decision to leave Kansas -- that maybe he didn't play on the perimeter enough.
Give me a break! Kansas has an outstanding system, and in transition players get to shoot jumpers. At 6-foot-11, Padgett could play the post and have a chance to develop in a top program. He'd also get great visibility in a winning environment, especially since his school just made it to the Elite Eight. For the life of me, I can't figure this out -- he's a starting center on an Elite Eight team but he's worried about developing as a player?
Coach Bill Self suddenly can't develop players? I don't think so. I can understand if the kid isn't getting playing time, is struggling academically or is homesick. But don't hit me with the bit about developing players for the NBA. I'm dumbfounded as to why Padgett would want to leave a great program like Kansas with the nucleus of Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford returning. The Jayhawks are a legitimate threat to win a national championship next season in Saint Louis, site of the 2005 Final Four.
Now Padgett is thinking about places like UCLA or maybe Nevada, his home state. The rumors will continue to fly. The bottom line is, he'll have to sit out a season, and think about what happens when a player sits out for an entire year.
We'll have to see how this soap opera unfolds. Padgett will miss out on lots of fun in Lawrence. Kansas will find a way to win, especially with recruits like Russell Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun coming in. Self is a flat-out winner, and Kansas will continue to succeed big-time.
Believe me, Jayhawks basketball will survive without Padgett. Let's hope, for his sake, that he develops into the player many projected.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.