Few senior moments in college hoops Print
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Monday, 07 April 2008 12:04
NCAAB Headline News


 SAN ANTONIO (AP) -When Dave Odom came to the Alamodome last week to coach a college All-Star game, he started practice with a pep talk. But first he had a senior moment of sorts.
Not because Odom is 65 and just retired as South Carolina coach, but because the game was for seniors only.
``I congratulated them for staying in school, pursuing their degrees and making a difference,'' Odom said.
There are fewer and fewer of those senior moments in college basketball anymore.
These days, the place they're usually making a difference is the NBA.
Check the rosters of the teams that made this year's Final Four - or the entire NCAA tournament, really. There's not much left of the Class of 2008. Those players are long gone to the pros.
Derrick Rose and Kevin Love, both freshmen, drew the most attention in San Antonio. A matchup between newcomers Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo created the biggest buzz in the first round.
Hardly a significant senior on the floor. For the first time, in fact, not a single one made the All-America team.
``The landscape has changed,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
Rose figured to end his brief college career Monday night when he led Memphis into the championship game. Big man Joey Dorsey was the lone Tigers senior to take on Kansas.
UCLA and North Carolina, the other two teams that reached the semifinals, did not start a senior.
Kansas is a huge exception in today's hoops world. The Jayhawks have five seniors, including starters Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson and key reserve Sasha Kaun.
``Oh, yeah, there's still a place,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said Sunday. ``But you look at our team, our most talented guys on paper aren't seniors. We've got Russell and Darnell and Sasha. They're not our leading scorers.
``The elite programs that recruit really well, they're going to have to make some decisions. Do they want to recruit one-and-done guys?'' he said.
There have been early defections to the pros for 30 years, but it started in earnest with Syracuse in 2003. Carmelo Anthony spent one year on campus, long enough to lead the Orange to their lone championship.
Greg Oden took Ohio State to the title game last year as a freshman and Kevin Durant did well in his only season at Texas. Then again, look how loaded the Longhorns could've been - their team that lost to Memphis in the South Regional final would have boasted Durant, Daniel Gibson and LaMarcus Aldridge had they not all left early for the NBA.
Consider this: Since 2001, only one senior has been a top-five pick. That was Shelden Williams of Duke, taken fifth overall by Atlanta in 2006.
UCLA's Love and Kansas State's Beasley earned All-America status and are expected to turn pro. So are Rose and Mayo, the Southern California star, and Indiana's Eric Gordon.
Memphis coach John Calipari can see both sides. While LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett neatly jumped from the preps to the pros, many other young players flopped.
``It's all based on the NBA. When the NBA started drafting players directly out of high school, you had 10th graders, their whole mindset was, 'I'm going straight to the NBA,''' Calipari said. ``The NBA then came back and knew they made a lot of mistakes on kids and paid a lot of money to kids that had not been tested except in a McDonald's All-American game, in a pickup game.''
Rose, however, is something special.
``I'm not sure if a kid is really talented and he's a junior, even sometimes a sophomore, to stay another two years. If you're a first-round pick, I'm not sure it's very intelligent,'' Calipari said. ``Seems to me the history says the longer you stay, they're finding more kinks in your armor. Doesn't mean I don't want kids to graduate. I do. But if a kid is a first-round draft pick, my recommendation will be, 'You need to go for it.'''
The NBA and its union changed the rules for the 2006 draft. To be eligible, players must turn at least 19 in the calendar year they're picked and be one full year past their high school graduation.
In his perfect world, NBA commissioner David Stern would wait longer.
``Would I like 20 more than 19? Sure, I would,'' Stern said Monday in San Antonio. ``But we made the judgment that we'd take what we could get.''
Louisville center David Padgett was among the seniors who played Friday night in the All-Star event that Odom coached. At 6-foot-11 with a smooth passing touch and a history of injuries, Padgett never considered leaving early.
``I made a commitment to myself and my parents that I would get my degree,'' he said. ``But a lot of young players have people waving millions of dollars in their face. It'd be great for college basketball if they stayed in school, but I can understand why they don't.''
Pitino watched from the front row, then gave Padgett a hug when the game ended. The Cardinals coach is an NCAA tournament regular and can see a class struggle playing out between the elite programs and the up-and-comers.
``It's why the Davidsons and George Masons can beat you,'' he said. ``We can get the great freshman but can't always keep him. They can get the players who stick around to make a difference as seniors.''
 

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