A story made the Internet rounds this week that Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins was in line to receive a shoe endorsement deal of $140 million to $180 million after he completes his only college basketball season and is taken with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
The story turned out to be a hoax, but the fact that a college freshman who has yet to play a game can generate such a hoax seems like . . . a hoax. The fact that he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated just seems like a cruel joke, given the famous Cover Jinx.
More disturbing is that the article talked about Wiggins in the same metaphorical breath as Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. If the cover itself wasn’t a jinx, that should do the trick.
I realize that a segment of college basketball is a feeder system for the NBA — and that that segment is growing. The increase of one-and-done players is well-documented. Happily, like a lot of trends, that one was slow to make it to the Nation’s Breadbasket, but it has now arrived with a vengeance.
In addition to Wiggins, KU freshmen Wayne Selden Jr. and Joel Embiid are potential lottery picks. That would be three one-and-dones on the same team, something I’ve never seen in the history of KU basketball — nor have I wanted to see it. In fact, the school has been notable for its players not leaving early. Chamberlain did it in 1958, signing with the Globetrotters, and the next guy to take off early for basketball reasons, as far as I can remember, is Paul Pierce, although he stayed three seasons before heading to the NBA.
I support a player’s right to determine his future. There is always the specter of injury, and some from hardscrabble backgrounds feel more compelled to grab that NBA cash and help their families than to spend more time in the chem lab. Basketball is their career and they are making a career choice.
That’s the logical part of the argument. The truth is, I hate to see the one-and-done trend taking over my alma mater. In the last three years there have been three who have had varying amounts of success: Xavier Henry (2010), Josh Selby (2011) and Ben McLemore (2013).
But three on one team? Does anyone really want her favorite team to become the new Kentucky, which won the national championship in 2012 with a lineup of one-and-dones — over Kansas — then failed to make the tournament field the following year? Then again, that won’t happen to KU because it has a verbal commitment from big man Kelly Oubre for the 2014-15 season — and he is projected as a lottery pick in the 2015 draft.
Coach Bill Self is one of the best in the business, and if he’s decided this is the way to take the program, then the rabid and very loyal fan base will go along with it. With a winning percentage of .836, In Bill We Trust.
But I will miss the old way, when coaches — and Self was a master at this — built a roster and improved green players and put together real teams. Senior Night drew smiles and tears because for four years, we had rooted for these kids, watched them grow up (at least most of them) and we wished them well.
Now even Senior Night is changing. This spring, Self allowed the Allen Field House crowd to bid farewell to McLemore at the final home game. Perhaps that will become a new tradition: Senior and Freshman Night. It won’t be the same.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.