Sunday, July 11, 2004

Top preps going pro not all bad for NCAA

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The question was posed to Miami coach Charlie Coles: If you had had the chance to skip college and enter the NBA draft out of high school, would you have done it?

Coles, who averaged 42.1 points a game during his senior year at Bryan High School in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in the late 1950s, didn't have to think very long before answering.

"If I thought I was good enough, I would have probably," Coles said. "I hate to say it, but I would probably have tried.

"I think the opportunity for some of the kids is just too good. There's enough kids that have done well. Let's face it. People are not going to write or talk about the kids that haven't done well. It's the kids that have done well - (Amare) Stoudemire, (LeBron) James, (Kobe) Bryant, the Tracy McGradys, that serves as motivation for some kids.

"I don't think it's a good thing most of the time, because a lot of the kids aren't good enough. They should probably go to college and develop their games. It's just so tough for kids to see it."

But don't count Coles among those coaches who fear the growing number of high school players skipping college - eight high school players were selected in the first round of this year's NBA draft - is severely damaging the college game.

In fact, the exodus of top players actually might make the college game better in the long run, on the court and off.

"I think coaches are now coming to the realization that if we do have a great player we're only going to have him for two years maybe," Coles said. "Let me get some other players who will be around here four years.

"You won't see better individuals, but you'll see better teams that have been together for three or four years. It's helping the game."

After this year's draft, it will be harder and harder for college coaches to persuade top high school players to enroll in school. Take the case of Duke guard Chris Duhon.

Duhon played for the Blue Devils for four years. He was a third-team All-American last season and a first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. He won 123 games and a national championship.

But Duhon wasn't taken in the draft until the 38th pick, while Shaun Livingston, a 6-foot-7 guard out of Peoria (Ill.) Central High School who had committed to Duke, was taken by the Los Angeles Clippers with the fourth pick.

In effect, it's possible Livingston could have only hurt his draft position by going to Duke.

"So if that's happening," Coles said, "then you can see where kids are saying, 'Hey, I'm coming out.' It's something that none of us likes, but that's what's going on now."

And maybe that's not so bad if it means more players will be going to college for reasons other than basketball. If the top players are already in the NBA making their millions, maybe there's more room in college for the player who wants not only to play basketball but also to get an education.

TIME FOR THE REMATCH: With former Xavier coach Thad Matta moving on to Ohio State, perhaps the chances will improve for the first Ohio State-University of Cincinnati basketball game since 1962 when the Bearcats knocked off the Buckeyes in the national championship game.

Matta and UC coach Bob Huggins had a good relationship, much as Huggins and former XU coach Skip Prosser did. Prosser's Wake Forest teams routinely play UC. The only reason Matta's Buckeyes couldn't schedule a game with the Bearcats would be if OSU athletic director Andy Geiger vetoed the idea.

UC and Ohio State now routinely play each other in football - the Bearcats open their season in Columbus on Sept. 4. It's beyond ridiculous that they can't find a way to play a basketball game now and again.



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Who do you think has a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament next season, Xavier or Ohio State?