Friday, March 20, 2009

College, Pro, and the Age Limit (And CHUBBY COX)

Shoals had a nice column up at the Sporting News yesterday that I wanted to draw your attention to, asking "has the age minimum really created a bridge between the college and pro ranks? Or is the NCAA just wasting the time of eventual All-Stars?" The column isn't an opinion piece about the age limit. Instead, Shoals asserts, "college ball is quite simply a different form of basketball than the pros." It's a reasonable assertion, one I've made myself many times. The column uses that assertion to start a discussion specifically about NBA all-star type talents, so ignore for now the narrative of the NCAA star who becomes an effective role player in the NBA, for instance.

We are also leaving aside, here, the Carmelo Anthony-type stories of players who dominate the NCAA and go on to become stars in the NBA. Instead, we're looking at players who didn't stand out in college play, or seemed like role-players at the college level, but went on to become stars at the NBA level.

On the other hand, college ball has the uncanny ability to stifle future stars, or camouflage them altogether. We’re not talking about the all-too-familiar economy of sleepers and busts that makes the NBA draft an all-consuming passion for some (including even a few scouts). Looking at this year’s rookie class, I’m left wondering how O.J. Mayo -- once the Next LeBron, now the future of the Memphis Grizzlies -- could have been so prosaic at USC, to the point where his going third in the draft was considered a comeback of sorts.

Or why did the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, one of the most dynamic and versatile young guards in the league, spend two years at UCLA known only as a defensive stopper and raw dunker? To paint an even more extreme picture, how is it that Dwyane Wade and Brandon Roy, both of whom served extended tours of duty at their alma maters, were merely very, very good at what’s supposedly an inferior level of play?

I don't really follow the NCAA enough to have a ton to add to the discussion, but wanted to point it out to you. I would submit, in terms of specific and material differences, that what separates most superstar perimeter scorers from just decent scorers in the NBA is the ability to create and convert pull-up midrange jump-shots (since most NBA defenses have a good shotblocker near the rim, unless your name is Lebron James you're not always going to have an opening to finish at the rim when you beat your man off the dribble). The NCAA, with its closer 3-point line, shrinks a lot of the floor and doesn't really have space for that midrange pull-up game to flourish. Just a thought.

The real March Madness: The race to crown the best ever NBA name
I had thought that Ruben Boumtje Boumtje had this award locked up forever, until today. I randomly stumbled across the career statistics of the great Chubby Cox. Cox was drafted in 1978 but never played a pro game until 4 and a half years later when he signed a couple of 10-day contracts with the Washington Bullets. And if you were looking for proof that the NBA is the greatest thing ever: It turns out that Chubby Cox is Kobe Bryant's uncle on his mom's side. So what do you think? Did Chubby Cox beat out Ruben Boumtje Boumtje? Or is there another candidate that I'm missing completely?

UPDATE: I guess I should do a little more research next time. After posting this, I did a quick Google and realized that basketbawful had already written about Chubby Cox and his awesome name and Kobe connection, 2 years ago. Credit where it's due.

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