New year, big expectations
Wow, I am so excited about starting my 31st season on ESPN. I can't believe it... where has all of the time gone? I am 70 but I feel like I'm about 12 years old! I am ready for my first broadcast of the season, with Kansas facing Memphis in the Hall of Fame Classic in Saint Louis. The game will wrap up 24 hours of Hoop Hysteria on ESPN.
I am thrilled to see the Jayhawks, the team that just about everybody has picked numero uno. I can't wait to take a look at them. My buddy Jimmy Valvano used to say that to win the national championship, you need three future pros, three guys who can make big plays and take you to the winner's circle when things get tough. Do you think Kansas has three big-time players?
Start with Cole Aldrich, a dominator in the interior. He can block shots, rebound and score as well. On the perimeter, Sherron Collins makes big shots and has a wealth of experience after playing on the national championship team a couple of years ago. Then factor in Xavier Henry, a diaper dandy with a wealth of talent. He had a great debut vs. Hofstra, scoring 27 points, the most for any Jayhawk freshman. Kansas has had some great ones, and Henry got off to an incredible start by hitting five trifectas, showing his shooting range. Henry can also put the ball on the floor and attack the goal.
Kansas is well-coached by Bill Self. He is starting to put together the kind of numbers that could lead to the Hall of Fame. The Jayhawks have so many other weapons and that depth could be a difference-maker come tournament time.
Memphis has a new coach in Josh Pastner, and he is a recruiting machine. He has signed a number of impact players for next season, led by Will Barton. That class should be special, but right now the question is whether the Tigers can get much on the interior to help the perimeter players. Memphis has former Dukie Eliot Williams, who started at the end of the year; he is eligible for the Tigers Something tells me good things will happen for Pastner, who is such a hard worker. Good things happen to those who are so dedicated. He has such a passion.
I have been so blessed to work at ESPN, calling the first college basketball game for the network. It was DePaul vs. Wisconsin in 1979; where have the years gone? I can't wait to sprint to courtside and see my partner, Dan Shulman. First we will shoot the breeze and talk baseball, then it is time for college hoops. Away we go for another season, and it should be a great one. We will see if Kansas is as good as most experts feel. I can't wait for it all to start, year number 31!
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