Showing Some Love for the Man They Love to Hate

By Tony Kornheiser
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Let me be upfront about this: I'm totally in the tank for J.J. Redick. I have seen him play in person twice in the past three weeks, and have come away scratching my head at how anybody can say he's overrated.

Redick, who had 41 against Georgetown on Jan. 21 and 35 against Maryland on Saturday, hardly forced a shot, and in no way could be called a chucker. That's 76 points against two good teams -- on the road, facing wildly hostile crowds -- against various trick defenses designed just to stop him. Pay attention now: Nobody stops him.

At the risk of making this sound like a Valentine's Day card, he hits threes from ungodly distance. (Though he may not have the close-in range of Dick Cheney, who can really get in a guy's face.) He's not a great ballhandler, but when you come out on Redick, he doesn't surrender and give up the ball; he can drive by you and go hard to the basket. He's automatic from the foul line -- and Duke knows how to get Redick the ball late in the game when they want him, and nobody else, on the line. To call Redick "just a shooter" is to call the Mona Lisa just a painting.

( Excuse me, Tony, don't you think you're getting a tad carried away? Whew. )

Yet people delight in claiming Redick won't be a good pro. Or he won't even be a pro. They say he's too slow, too small and, of course, too white. (Oddly, nobody who ever guards him or coaches against him says that.) Part of this is the natural antipathy folks show toward Duke in the same way they show it toward the Yankees, whom they hate for being the best. And part of it is blindness.

Either way, it's beside the point. Redick is the best college basketball player in the country, and he's likely to wind up as the highest scorer in the vaunted history of the ACC. Hate Redick all you want for all your small reasons. But appreciate how good he is, and count yourself lucky if you got the chance to see him play against Georgetown and Maryland. Like a foot of snow, players like him don't drop by all that often.

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