Who was in the stands was just as impressive
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (George Raveling bobblehead doll sold separately):
He never dribbled a ball, never took a shot. He just showed up anonymously and sat in the stands spectating, alongside the college coaches, media members and parents. But every kid in uniform could have been schooled by four-year New Mexico (by way of Bradley) star and first-round Indiana Pacers draft pick Danny Granger (1).
Granger had been in Indy for only three days when he decided to drop by the camp that had no room for him as a player at Grace King High School in Metairie, La. That's right -- Danny Granger was a nobody as a teenager, just another kid with a modest rep who was overlooked by the July glam camps.
"I was just trying to go to college," Granger said with a laugh. "I didn't even think about the NBA."
Granger's very presence in the gym at IUPUI would have been instructive for all the campers, underscoring the point so many of them miss: Very few players their age have proven anything yet. This is only the beginning point to making it big in basketball. It's the work and development put in from here that defines their hoops futures.
Just something The Minutes invites everyone to keep in mind during the summer recruiting season. Now on with the hyperventilation
Disclaimer: These are simply players who caught The Minutes' eye, not a definitive list of the best in camp. If you want recruiting rankings, there's an entire Internet out there full of information, opinions and rank speculation.
Kevin Durant (2) -- Smooth 6-foot-9 forward committed to Texas, then gave every coach in camp a full dose of Hook'em envy with his play. Shot the 3, floated to the hoop and could maneuver inside, too. New NBA age minimum might be the only thing keeping him on track for Austin in '06.
Tywon Lawson (3) -- Brassy point guard is headed to North Carolina to replace Raymond Felton -- just a year too late for Tar Heels fans, who would love to see him in powder blue this fall. Gets to the rim when you crowd him and shoots the 3 when you lay off.
Brandan Wright (4) -- Long 6-9 lefty from Nashville has Duke, Carolina and Kentucky boxing out for his signature. Said he was 50-50 on the pros before the age minimum came in, but now will be happy to at least make a cameo appearance on a campus. The Minutes (and other observers) were convinced he was looking down through the rim on one high-altitude dunk.
Spencer Hawes (5) -- Engaging kid from Seattle can do a lot at 6-11. He has range to 20 feet (and proved it several times), can handle the ball and uses both hands well around the hoop. Was a 6-foot guard just four years ago, so his skill level is advanced for a big man. List of schools is straight aristocracy: Duke, Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Washington.
Duke Crews (6) -- One of those guys who grows on you the more you see him. Not a flashy player at 6-7 and 234 pounds, but a productive one who could excel in college as an undersized interior guy. Xavier and Florida have been in on him for a while, but the ACC pack could be closing in on this Virginian. Skip Prosser and Roy Williams were seen checking him out, with Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech all on the radar.
Sherron Collins (7) -- Chicagoan who has "The Next Dee Brown" written all over his 5-11, 190-pound frame. Plays with the same bounce and swagger as Dee, and perhaps more pure-point instinct (although he has a less steady stroke at this point). Illinois badly wants that "Next Dee Brown" label to lead Collins to Champaign.
Raymar Morgan (8) -- The Minutes could be wrong, but at least one Michigan State coach might have seen every dribble taken in Indy by the energetic 6-8 forward from Canton, Ohio.
Greivas Vasquez (9) -- Venezuelan wing proved he belonged in the Nike all-star game. Showed a glimmer of fellow South American Manu Ginobili's craftiness and relentlessness while playing at ease at a fast tempo.
Jonathan Scheyer (10) -- Duke recruit can catch and shoot like Redick, but isn't as good off the dribble -- yet. Chicago suburbanite plays for Bruce Weber's brother, David, which made his commitment to the Blue Devils excruciating for Illinois fans.
Jerryd Bayless (11) -- Most impressive junior-to-be in the camp, and maybe the most impressive player of any age. He'll shoot it in your eye, scorch you off the dribble and carries himself with the utmost confidence. Reminiscent of another point guard from Phoenix named Mike Bibby.
Thad Matta (12), Ohio State -- The man managed the impossible double: best recruiting class and best tan. Those two things should be mutually exclusive.
Roy Williams (13), North Carolina -- Never saw him without a smile on his face. Perhaps because he knew what question he won't ever have to hear again.
Bruce Pearl (14), Tennessee -- Moving from a hyphenated school to one in a Big Six conference can put a spring in your step. And some padding in your wallet.
Lorenzo Romar (15), Washington -- Showed up one day wearing a gray collared shirt, with no visible-from-space school logo to be found. Earning a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed can do wonders for a coach's recognition factor -- and can free up his dress code.
Mike Krzyzewski (16), Duke -- Another recruit just looked at him and said, "Hey, isn't that the guy from the AmEx commercial?"
(Whether they showed it or not)
Bob Huggins (17), Cincinnati -- Looked good, and actually smiled at least once. But Ohio is currently enjoying what might be the greatest talent boom in state history, and the coach of the Bearcats is trying to recruit with two years left on his contract and a president anxious to run him out.
Bill Self (18), Kansas -- Jovial as always, but life has been better. First it was Bucknell. Then it was watching a national title game pitting the coach you succeeded (Williams) against the coach who succeeded you (Weber). Then J.R. Giddens (19) was knifed outside a bar and subsequently transferred. Midnight Madness cannot come soon enough in Lawrence.
Robert McCollum (20), South Florida -- Looked very serious, even in the hotel elevator. You would be, too, if you were taking the Bulls into the Big East next season.
Tubby Smith (21), Kentucky -- Still tense with the media, even in the lazy days of summer: Tubby lit up a reporter one afternoon at courtside. Dealing with Randolph Morris can leave a coach cranky.
Dennis Felton (22), Georgia -- Got an early verbal from 6-10 center Albert Jackson, then weathered a subsequent scholarship offer to the Kentuckian from Tubby. But now Jackson is telling reporters that he's a big North Carolina fan, that he went to the Final Four and that he got to shake Sean May's hand there. So he's still open to being recruited? "They can take that however they want," Jackson said. The Minutes can guess how Felton is taking it.
And then there is the Dangerfieldian existence of Illinois' Weber. The guy goes 37-2 last year, is ranked No. 1 almost all year, wins the Big Ten, ties the all-time record for victories in a season and plays the pants off North Carolina in the national title game -- and what does he get? This:
• Flight delays into Newark for the ABCD Camp left Weber hoofing it at 2 a.m. on the airport grounds to the nearby Marriott. At one point he had to climb a fence. At another he was stopped by an airport police car.
After convincing the cops that he wasn't a threat to national security, Weber asked them for a ride to the hotel. They declined.
• An insulting contract extension from athletic director Ron Guenther (23). Yes, Guenther apparently is prepared to give Weber an unprecedented six-year deal -- but the compensation is the stuff of NIT titles. Weber gets a raise from $550,000 to $700,000, plus incentives and a loyalty bonus due in later years.
This from a guy who just last winter gave Ron Zook (24) $1.1 million to coach the football team. Let the record show that Zooker was a little shy of 37-2 last year and was fired from his previous job.
At $700 grand per, the man whose team crushed the Big Ten would still be no better than mid-pack in league salaries. Tom Izzo (25) is pulling a reported $1.6 million, with Matta scheduled for a reported $1.1 million this year, Steve Alford (26) due a reported $900,000, Mike Davis (27) weighing in at 800 large and Bo Ryan (28) believed to be in that same range. Asked at Nike whether he feels underpaid, Weber diplomatically ignored the question.
Greeting spoken by every coach to every other coach. Like the "How are you?" in everyday speech, the asker is utterly disinterested in an honest response.
"Everything's great," is the proper answer, even if you're Dave Bliss (29).
Oklahoma State assistant Sean Sutton (30) and Texas Tech assistant Pat Knight (31) having a beer together at Ike & Jonesie's (32). You had to wonder whether they were comparing notes on life as an assistant to your legendary dad. Sean has already been named to succeed father Eddie, and don't be surprised if Bob hands Pat the reins in Lubbock in a couple of years.
Jason Bennett (33), a 7-foot-2 behemoth from Jacksonville, Fla., went ragingly retro in the Nike all-star game. He lobbed an Alcindoresque (34) baseline sky hook softly into the net from about 10 feet out, drawing a prolonged "whooooooo!" from the crowd. It was a louder and longer reaction than any of the 213 alley-oop dunks in the game, which just goes to show that the best way to elicit a response is to do something nobody's used to seeing.
Alas, it was the high point of the evening for Bennett, who described himself earlier in the day as a "one- or two-year" collegian before going off to get rich. He might have to rethink that after being outplayed by fellow Floridian 7-footer Jon Kreft (35).
Mike Jones (36) wins in a walk. The Georgia assistant strolled courtside in a black shirt with screaming white letters that read, "Property of Mike Jones," and listed his office phone number below. The Minutes is still trying to decide whether this was an inspired recruiting idea, brazen self-promotion or a way to score chicks.
Almost to a man, coaches were unimpressed with the 19-year-old age minimum for the NBA draft and its possible positive effects on the college game. (The consensus: 20 might have done some good.) Asked what good the rule does, Izzo made a circle with his left index finger and thumb and held it up to his eye.
"Two years on campus might have helped," Izzo said. "Maybe then you eliminate the middlemen and the decision comes down to the kid, the coach and his family. What you'll see next year is an onslaught of kids coming out after their freshman year. And that kills you. You not only lose the kid, you lose the guy you would have gotten if he'd never come to school."
One coach even floated a chilling alternative that could further undermine the status quo: What if, instead of spending a year in college, top high-schoolers signed fat shoe contracts and lollygagged in the D-League or a prep school for a year? That way, players wouldn't even have to bother with trying to achieve those pesky standardized test scores or core GPAs.
Several coaches decried the continued blurring of the lines between agent reps and AAU programs, saying that many AAU coaches are serving as runners for agents. (Or, in the case of former Louisiana AAU kingpin turned SFX Basketball vice president Thad Foucher (37), you can actually become an agent.)
Coaches described it as a widespread problem that further pollutes the minds of young players and channels their thought processes directly to the pros -- ready or not.
"You never want to be in the office that [the players] are always going to. You're telling them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear."
-- Marquette coach Tom Crean (38), on constructive criticism as a coach versus enabling players
"They've got that really old-school game, the old white-guy moves."
-- 6-10 prospect (and young white guy) Spencer Hawes, talking about his uncle, Steve Hawes (39), a former NBA player, and dad, Jeff Hawes (40), who played at Washington and professionally overseas.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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