Monday, August 31, 2009

Something to think about!

Any regular reader will know that the word "Development" is used often here. I hold a "Developer" in the highest regard. However, in light of the constant bashing of summer coaches and the American youth basketball system, I want to air a few questions that I have.

In a current Wall Street Journal article that cited the evils of our current system, the following was stated:

"New Orleans Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic, who is Serbian, remembers spending four hours a day dribbling through chairs and working on defense and other fundamentals in practices."

That is great! I agree wholeheartedly that this type of training is needed. It is VERY important and should be required.( Peja plays defense? On who?)

Now here is the question, how many Peja's of the world have LED their teams to NBA titles? The answer is ABSOLUTELY NONE!!! Fact!!!

Pau Gasol was Robin to Kobe's Batman. Dirk has tried to be one of these players, groomed in European basketball factories, to lead his team to a Ship' but like others, he has failed. His best opportunity was thwarted by the Golden State warriors and their trio of basketball malcontents Baron Davis, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. This is one of the only times that a #8 seed defeated a number #1 in the NBA playoffs. Eilis, Davis, and Jackson are all products of the Evil Empire known as AAU.

Stojakovic himself was a auxiliary piece in the Sacramento Kings quest to earn a title. Another AAU product and supposed poster boy of what is wrong with our system, Chris Weber, was the undisputed leader and star of that team. Now, one can counter and say that Vlade Divac played an integral part in that teams success but I would have to come back with the fact that AAU- bred Mike Bibby was just as, if not more, important than Divac. Bibby was simply unguardable during the 2002 playoffs. His AAU game of ,one vs one ability, allowed him to torch opposing teams to the tune of 20 points and 5 assists. He just so happened to catch the tail end of the Shaq-Kobe Dynasty.

Now, some may say that Tim Duncan did not play in the AAU system and has lead his team to titles. I agree, but the fact remains that Tim did not hone his skills in a European style basketball factory. He was a swimmer the majority of his youth.

Another question is this, why are American players so prized in professional leagues outside of the country but vilified here?

We all know many could have-should have NBA basketball players that earn a good living playing overseas. Most every club team abroad imports former NCAA stars to help them chase a title in their respective leagues. The difference with NBA teams importing players and overseas clubs doing the same is that our NBA role players are frequently the stars on their overseas clubs.

A recent check of the leading scorers in the Euroleague list Terrell McIntyre(Clemson), David Logan(Univ of Indianapolis), Chris Warren as the 2-4 leading scorers in the league. Sometime former NBA starter, Carlos Arroyo is ranked #9 in scoring. Arroyo also ranks 6th in assists. In the NBA, Arroyo would not be considered among the ten best point guards in the league but he is probably one of the ten best PLAYERS overseas currently. One of the prime examples of coming out of school too early and AAU infamy is Omar Cook. Cook was supposed to be a perennial All-Star and 10 year vet in the NBA. He is still trying to get back there, but his Brooklyn skill set allows him to rank second the the Euroleague in assist and earn a great living as one of the best players overseas. Our NBA rejects, are still better than most of the elite players overseas. ( see NBA role player, Earl Boykins as Italys highest paid player)

While I agree with the need to institute more development and less games for young players, I think it is overreacting when some claim that our system is entirely broke. Even if it is broke, when was it working properly? Point shaving(UNC's Doug Moe), high school coaches taking money under the table(Tates Lock- Bobby Knights coach), rich boosters buying recruits(Sam Gilbert), and academic dishonesty have always been a part of the game.

( A Side Note: While recently reading "Blue Blood" about the origins of the UNC and Duke rivalry, I read something very interesting. Brawls were apparently the norm in those days. The esteemed Larry Brown started a melee reminiscent to the one that the so-called thug, Ron Artest, started 40 years later. And yes, the very educated crowd from Duke and UNC joined the fisticuffs. Apparently, time has a way of making all of us old folks forget our youthful indiscretions)

But, this era is full of ball hogs that do not play the game the critics say. The great Pistol Pete AVERAGED over 40 points a game in the late 60's. Please view the Top 10 scorers in NCAA Division 1 history. Only two played a game after 1990.Apparently, a lot of ball hogging and not sharing was acceptable back then. In fact, the Top 10 assists leaders in NCAA Division 1 history, ALL but one(Sherman Douglas 1989), played in or after 1990. So much for modern day selfishness!

Like all things, AAU and youth basketball can do things better. But, we should not act like our current players and system is the end of the world. The fact remains, our players are still the BEST IN THE WORLD.