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View Full Version : Durant... Maybe not going pro?



gonzagulous
03-26-2007, 06:33 AM
This article is from a week and a half ago, but I hadn't seen it until now. Might we get another year of Kevin Durant? I'm posting the whole thing so you guys don't have to sign up to read it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031402840.html

AUSTIN -- Kevin Durant makes a dual impression on the basketball court. The first impression is one of sheer talent -- here is the bounding, net-ripping, honest-to-God real thing, unmistakably a potential great. The second impression is one of youth. Durant, a University of Texas freshman from Suitland, only turned 18 in September and doesn't even have his driver's license. He's so young he has only had time to get one tattoo. It's over his heart, and it's his mother's name.

The juxtaposition of weedy youngness and capacious talent in a 6-foot-9 frame has made Durant at once the most celebrated and argued-over college player in the country. Previously, a savant like Durant would have already gone to the NBA. Instead, he has become a test case of the league's controversial new age minimum.

With the initiation this season of a league policy restricting entry to players 19 or older and a year removed from high school, Durant was forced to delay the call of professionalism and enroll at Texas, where he has discovered something interesting: He likes being an undergraduate.

"I mean, in a couple more years I'll be grown up," he says, "but right now I'm glad I'm a kid and I'm going through this college thing, and I don't have to deal with those pressures or anything like that."

For at least one paradisiacal spring, Durant will test himself against his peers in the NCAA tournament, which begins on Thursday, instead of against his elders in the pros. The age limit was intended get the NBA out of the child-rearing business, to see that prodigies aren't ruined psychologically by too-early entry to a league in which "playing" entails a grind of 82 games, 41 of them on the road. Although some of the league's greatest young stars successfully leapt straight from high school -- Cleveland's LeBron James was named rookie of the year in 2004 -- there are countless anonymous failures. The league has found that professionalism doesn't necessarily accelerate adolescent growth, but can ###### it. The hope is that an age restriction will make for more skilled and mature players.

The NBA's motive isn't altruistic: While Durant and a handful of other precocious freshmen such as center Greg Oden of Ohio State play out their supercharged collegiate season, NBA teams have had a chance to judge their abilities. Drafting them will be less of a guessing game, and lessen the chances of wasting a top pick on a spectacular failure.

"I think it's working," NBA Commissioner David Stern says. "I'm not one of our scouts but I would gather that by the end of the NCAAs our teams will have seen some extraordinary young men play against accelerated talent and be able to make good judgments. And that the youngsters will have grown in confidence both on and off court, and acquired skills that will make them better able to do their jobs."

But critics charge that while the rule might be good for the NBA, it has unpalatable consequences at the collegiate level. Texas Tech Coach Bobby Knight has flatly called it one of the "worst" rules he has ever seen, arguing that it puts coaches in the position of recruiting players they know won't be in school for more than a year, and that NBA aspirants have small incentive to go to class, especially in the spring semester.

Although Durant claims he is undecided whether to leave school this spring, the widely held assumption is that he will be a "one-and-done" collegian, because with a single declaration he can command a multimillion-dollar NBA contract and even larger shoe endorsement deal. According to Knight, the presence of such players warps the mission of universities, which is to provide higher education, not a lily pad to the pros. "That, I think, has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports," Knight said earlier this season.

But supporters of the rule believe rerouting players to college for at least one year is beneficial. NCAA President Myles Brand says that while it's not perfect, it's preferable to no restriction. He argues that forcing high schoolers to focus on admission to college instead of the NBA will have a trickle-down effect and reemphasize academics at the prep level. "You can't get in unless you prepare," he says, "So I think this will lead many more young men to prepare."

Brand also believes the attention devoted to Durant is misplaced. The rule is really aimed at players who won't make it to the pros. "I'm looking at it quite differently, I'm looking at it from the points of view of the vast majority of those who play Division I basketball, who won't ever go to the NBA," Brand says. "Hundreds, maybe thousands, would be better off preparing for college."

It's too early to say who is right, or to calculate what the real effects of the age limit will be. But there is one person for whom the rule seems to be an unqualified success: Durant. Instead of languishing on an NBA bench, the college audience has watched as he has steadily bloomed and is a candidate to be the first freshman ever named NCAA player of the year. He is a shooter of breathtaking suppleness, a slasher with tomahawking power and a defender with a formidable 7-4 wingspan. His averages of 25.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game are mere suggestions of what he's capable. Ten performances of 30-plus points per game and are probably truer gauges.

"He's just getting started," says Texas Coach Rick Barnes. "When you look at him you say, 'My gosh, does he know what he's got here?' "

And the answer? "Not yet."

Durant is so obviously childlike that it's hard to view even a temporary stop in college as anything but good for him. At the free throw line, when he tilts his chin up to the basket, the gym lights shine on wide eyes in a narrow, baby face that a peach fuzz mustache fails to add years to. He is clearly comfortable at Texas, where he lives in an undergraduate dormitory, Jester Center, in the center of campus. He rides a bus across the sun-dappled and oak-studded college grounds to classes in which he carried a 3.5 grade point average his first semester. He's a familiar figure slouching across campus in a hoodie and billowing sweat pants, his size 18 sneakers slapping the pavement like clown spats.

His interests remain strictly undergraduate: he doesn't have a girlfriend, and when he's not in practice or study hall, he engages in marathon sessions of the video game "The Godfather" with a fellow freshman, point guard D.J. Augustin. (Durant made capo, before his machine froze.) He has only one other current passion: basketball in any form. He watches every brand played on campus, from women's games to intramurals, always visible in the bleachers.

For the moment, what's clear is that Durant is still playing for the sake of play. "That's all I want to do," he says. "Just play ball. Go to school, play ball. I try not to worry about the other stuff. Even though it's hard not to."

Durant has spent much of his first few months at Texas adjusting to being away from home, and from his mother, Wanda Pratt, who raised him alone and whom he still calls "Mommy" when he needs comforting. "Like most kids, he doesn't know how to take care of himself yet," Barnes says. "He's still the kind of kid that you got to call him to wake him up." The first thing Durant had to learn, he admits, was that "nobody was going to baby me anymore."

He arrived with a waif-like physique of less than 200 pounds, and drives the Texas coaching staff crazy by forgetting to eat. He put on 20 pounds of muscle with an intensive weight-training program, and repeated visits to Wendy's and Popeyes. But he tends to lose weight after every practice, and strength coach Todd Wright chases him around trying to make him bite into apples. "He can eat anything he wants and it's not going anywhere," sophomore guard A.J. Abrams says.

As far as Abrams can tell, mostly Durant eats Gummy Worms. "He's got a box at every study hall."

It is not a lock that Durant will leave school for the NBA. For one thing, Wanda and Wayne Pratt, Kevin's father who reconciled with Wanda five years ago, will have something to say on the subject. Durant's parents have stated that after the season, they will sit down with the Texas coaching staff and weigh the decision. Among the factors they will consider: If this is what one year of college can do for Durant, what would another? Is the risk of injury too great to stay in school? Or does he need another 20 pounds to be truly ready? Is it worth it to come out, only to be drafted by one of the worst teams in the league, with pressure to reverse the fortunes of a franchise and put spectators in the seats?

"Everyone thinks it's a foregone conclusion that he will leave, but because of them, it's not," Barnes says. "One thing I can tell you is this: They have his best interest at heart and they always have."

Ultimately, whether Durant is physically capable of playing pro ball may not be the real question. It's whether he is ready emotionally. For instance, he is reluctant to go to the NBA if it means living alone. "I don't think I'm grown at all," he says. "I know that without my parents, some things I can't do on my own. For example, if I would go to the NBA right now I wouldn't be able to live by myself."

Leapfrogging to the pros may seem like a fast route to self-assured adulthood, but in fact, it can be just a shortcut to massive insecurity and unhappiness. Durant is, for the moment, still a boy, a very large one, but a boy nonetheless. For the moment, he is happy right where he is, playing for the sake of play.

"Whenever I'm not smiling, something is wrong," he says.

TexasZagFan
03-26-2007, 06:57 AM
He'll be the second pick, at worst. How much more to his market value could he add with another year of college? Not much...the kid can do it all.

For Longhorn fans, it's too bad LaMarcus left for the pros. With Durant and Aldridge, is there any doubt that UT would have been a Final Four team?

Rubbadub
03-26-2007, 07:03 AM
Thanks for the article. I can really see this kid finishing on a top ten list for best players ever. his work ethic, fire and love for life are admirable. I don't know what the deal is though, i'm pretty sure he could get any girl on the UT campus to come live with him (based on the espn.com article about how he's perceived there) if thats the only problem :)

former1dog
03-26-2007, 07:11 AM
I must be going soft, but that article nearly got me misty. Thanks for posting.

Put me in the Durant fan club.

(I was already in the Oden fan club, BTW.)

Maybe I'm just fooling myself, but something tells me Durant and Oden would have been in college this past year, age limit or no.

sonuvazag
03-26-2007, 07:14 AM
There's a trend where potential top picks are not jumping in both basketball and football. Matt Leinart and Joakim Noah are the first two guys that come to my mind as guys who have taken a hit financially to stay in college for nothing more than the glory of another run. Oden has said since he was targeted as an overall first pick in his soph year of high school that he would finish school and Durant sounds like he wants to get to used to living alone which is very smart.

How amazing would that be if they both skip the draft? I can't say I expect it, but there should be something between the NCAA and NBA that allows these studs to get their draft status insured against injury. Seems fair that they don't have to run to the money for fear of injury and financial loss.

CDC84
03-26-2007, 08:20 AM
He's done. Oden is more likely to return.

gamagin
03-26-2007, 09:37 AM
should stay where he is and grow up, emotionally and educationaly and every which way. His life will be better.

the sharks will be circling this kid's pool all his life.

MDABE80
03-26-2007, 10:39 AM
Truth be known....many 18-20 yr olds dont do well living alone. They just don't know what to do or how to organize. Sounds like he's one of em.
He's a great talent and can do whatever he wants. Sounds like.....no it doesn't SOUND like....it IS like he's very very immature that wants it to be a game. Goes home momma feeds him, does his laundry (like he cares), and then on to the next game or the next fun thing. Kids are like this oftentimes these days. I think it's nice to see kids being kids.

Because he has lots of "adult entertainment type talent" in him, it doesn't mean he needs to abandon school and his buds so he can go get some big big money to entertain adults. This is the one time in his life that can't be reclaimed.....no money will allow it. Big jump in maturity from frosh to sophomore years. I'd love it if he stayed in school. I think he needs maturity a lot more than the NBA where he'd be surrounded by immature jerks as a role models. I mean how's a kid supposed to get grounded when he's out of place?

Stern's deal with the 19 yr olds only put it off for 1 year. It has no teeth and the purpose is defeated because of the structure the Commish put in. WHen I read an aerticle like Gonzagulous posted, it saddens me in some ways and give me some hope too. What would Durant do if there was no money in the NBA? We all know the answer. Likely he'd do 4 years and graduate with his friends. I've always found that money shows up anyway. It's a corrupt thing to pursue at a young age but when you're 18 it looks big. I hope he sticks around. He'll begin to fill out soon as his hormones ( man ones) take over. He's a great player but he a stick right now. He needs some time on multiple fronts IMO. Abe

Zag79
03-26-2007, 12:18 PM
seems like a really good kid from the article, almost zag material.... ;)
edited to add, great post abe!

deathchina
03-26-2007, 12:43 PM
"I've always found that money shows up anyway. It's a corrupt thing to pursue at a young age but when you're 18 it looks big. I hope he sticks around. He'll begin to fill out soon as his hormones ( man ones) take over. He's a great player but he a stick right now. He needs some time on multiple fronts IMO. Abe"

Ok, but what about baseball players, tennis players, soccer players? Should they be forced to go to school as well? What about the fact that you couldn't fill a major league roster with current MLB players with degrees from 4 year universities? Why doesn't that fact bother anyone? Why don't we talk about how professional basketball players, on average, are more educated than baseball players?

sonuvazag
03-26-2007, 12:49 PM
but what about baseball players, tennis players, soccer players?

Allen Iverson: Soccer!? We're talking 'bout soccer!?

Seriously though, baseball has a great program. It's called the minor leagues. Almost no one goes straight to the big leagues. I would be for that. Tennis!? We're talking 'bout tennis?! Tennis is just a bunch of tournaments and I have no idea what your point is about soccer. It's women's gymnastics that's totally exploitative.

Zag79
03-26-2007, 12:55 PM
you posted my thoughts sonuva... if hoops were set up like baseball i would be all for kids leaving school and going pro. but if you suck your going to stay in the minors and still have a career, where as in hoops too many guys dont make it period. they most likely would have had they stayed in school. and tennis? how many americans do you know that leap to the tennis circuit? usually the ones that will make it. the concern with hoops more than other sports is too many good kids that would get much better dont make it anywhere when they go before the should.

zaglawdad
03-26-2007, 01:39 PM
A lot of talk about Oden and Durant, as well there should be. Both are very capable. But on a note closer to home, has anyone heard what Spencer Hawes Intends to do?

MDABE80
03-26-2007, 01:50 PM
China says..."be forced to go to school as well"? Ah China....your words aren't germaine. Nobody's "forcing" anyone to do anything. MY thought was that Durant is a young kid...he might actually LIKE school and to grow up with his buds before he's gets mental over pressured performances and financial issues. I'm sure you'ld like that too;) Abe

deathchina
03-26-2007, 06:52 PM
My only question is...where are these legions of kids who ruined a promising career by skipping college to go directly to the pros?


I just think it's silly to say basketball players NEED school in order to learn how to live life and mature and get an education, and then you have hundreds of high school kids getting drafted into the minor leagues every year and no one raises a fuss.

UberZagFan
03-27-2007, 01:16 PM
What 18 year olds can do:

Vote? Check.
Marry? Check
Obtain a business license? Check.
Join the military? Check.

What 18 year olds can't do:

Enter the NBA draft? Check.


Funny that as more and more jurisdictions continue to prosecute 16-17 year olds as adults and sentence some to life in prison, so many are opposed to allowing 18 year olds enter the NBA.

cielmike
03-27-2007, 02:30 PM
China says..."be forced to go to school as well"? Ah China....your words aren't germaine. Nobody's "forcing" anyone to do anything. MY thought was that Durant is a young kid...he might actually LIKE school and to grow up with his buds before he's gets mental over pressured performances and financial issues. I'm sure you'ld like that too;) Abe

Right on the money (no pun intended) with this and your earlier post, MDABE, I could not agree with you more.

We live in a society that constantly pushes to the next level. One is always advised to do something because at the next level that's what you'll be doing anyway---sometimes at the expense of what can be gained at the current level. The opportunity to ground oneself in many facets of life and grow into a well-rounded person while young is a wonderful thing. It's what a GU educational experience can provide as well as obtainable from many other fine institutions of higher learning.

Mike

dawgman1999
03-27-2007, 04:00 PM
Right on the money (no pun intended) with this and your earlier post, MDABE, I could not agree with you more.

We live in a society that constantly pushes to the next level. One is always advised to do something because at the next level that's what you'll be doing anyway---sometimes at the expense of what can be gained at the current level. The opportunity to ground oneself in many facets of life and grow into a well-rounded person while young is a wonderful thing. It's what a GU educational experience can provide as well as obtainable from many other fine institutions of higher learning.

Mike

I just want to throw this in: After I finished my junior year in UW, I got a job with a local software firm over the summer. I did great over there, and during fall, they wanted to hire me right away, rather than wait for my graduation, with a salary that's well above than the average salary a UW CS grad could get at the time. Obviously, I've proven I could do well in their environment, and they do not need to see my diploma to judge what kind of a worker I can be. But I declined the offer and decided to finish school first, while working part time there.

I made that choice because I was close to being finished with school. Even though the offer was good, but it wasn't 4,5M that an NBA top picks can get these days. If I worked there right after high school, and the same offer was presented to me, I am not sure I would go to college. If I put myself in Kevin Durant's shoe, and I could make 4, 5M a year right after HS, and hit FA when I am 21 in the NBA and have the potential to get $300M for the rest of my playing career, I am pretty sure I would skip college. After all, if I am smart enough, I can always go back to college during or after I get my money.

4 years of extra earning is a LOT. That enables you to hit FA faster. Remember, an average NBA player's playing career is about 5 years. College is great, but college will always be there. 4 extra years of playing pro ball and make 5M/year isn't an opportunity that comed up that often, if at all. If as a student, any software firm can hire me away from school, I don't understand why you force a kid to stay in school. The rule says he can turn pro after 19 and one year away from school. It seems like it's pretty fair to me.