BOZICH | Donovan, Swanigan and college basketball's ball of delusion
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Caleb Swanigan is ranked the ninth-best high school basketball player in the nation by ESPN. Actually, he's Number One.
As in, now that Swanigan has de-committed from Michigan State, he's the Number One player available. He's also the Number One example of the upside-down, outside-in world of college basketball.
The jarring news that Swanigan had jilted Tom Izzo and the Spartans came Thursday. Generally, reaction could be funneled into two talk-show topics.
1. Does (fill in the blank of your favorite school) have a chance to sign Swanigan? (Take Purdue and Matt Painter in your office pool, although others are arguing Swanigan wants one of those California-Berkeley educations.)
2. Add Swanigan to the lengthy list of guys whose free-throw strokes are more reliable than their commitments to a program.
College basketball has become a ball of delusion. It is packed with players who believe they should be playing in the NBA before the next 30-second clock expires.
The word is that Swanigan was already concerned about how he would be used in college before he had graduated from high school. One on one, I'll bet on Tom Izzo over Caleb Swanigan. Michigan State will be fine.
“Now you know why Billy Donovan went from Florida to Oklahoma City,” one college basketball coach told me after I called for reaction to the Swanigan switcheroo.
“You have no idea of how crazy this is,” another coach said.
Translation: Tylenol, Xanax and Ambien won't touch the anxiety of chasing, coaching and keeping some of these knuckleheads in your program.
That makes this the perfect opportunity to share a conversation I enjoyed last month with a highly recruited player who is transferring from a Division I program in the area.
No names, please. I promised Mr. Hot Shot anonymity. But I still chuckle at his words – and I suspect you will, too.
Like most freshmen, this player had an uneven first season. An occasional start. A few nice games. But lots of shots that clanked and even more defensive blunders that had his head coach waving in a replacement.
Hey, it happens. Freshmen struggle.
That's why the most compelling college basketball story last season was Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. He was Mr. Irrelevant as a freshman. Kaminsky upgraded to Mr. Hardly-Relevant as a sophomore.
Kaminsky didn't mope. Kaminsky didn't blame his coach, Bo Ryan. Kaminsky didn't transfer. He practiced. He accepted coaching. He improved.
His rewards included two trips to the Final Four and the John Wooden Award, which is presented to the best player in the nation. Kaminsky will be taken in the first 20 selections of the 2015 NBA Draft.
Not every player can be Frank Kaminsky. I get that. But it's also true that not every player needs to be one of the 600-or-so guys who are currently changing schools. Not counting the guys who are changing schools before they have started school.
Like the area player I interviewed in April. Back to his story.
After we talked about how he was not used correctly and why his rear end was attached to the bench so many nights, this player asked me a question:
“Do you know how good I really am?”
I shrugged. I had an idea of what he could do. But I could not write a detailed scouting report of his skills.
He asked me again: “Do you know how good I really am?”
I was honest. I did not.
The player asked if he could show me how good he really was.
Sure. Please do.
He pulled out his phone. He tapped on an App.
“My mix-tape,” he said, smiling. It was the first time he had smiled in 20 minutes.
There it was, about three minutes of dunks, three-pointers, alley-oops, between the legs dribbles and more dunks.
Rebounding? No need for rebounding. Every shot went in.
Screening, blocking out or hustle plays? Obviously, you have never suffered though watching a recruiting mix-tape.
The player asked if I realized how good he was and how he had been misused last season.
Actually, what I realized is that I was getting an up-close and personal look at the absurdity college basketball coaches encounter day after day after day.
In case I did not realize it, the player also told me that he did not believe he'd be able to watch the 2015 NBA Draft.
I asked him, “Why?” He said he couldn't accept players being drafted who weren't as talented as he was.
Yes, I do understand why Billy Donovan left Florida for Oklahoma City.
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