I’m not even mad, really. How could I be? What right do I have to begrudge a kid for doing what he thinks is best for his career?
When I think about it, it reminds me of when Isaiah Thomas left the program to enter the NBA draft with a year of eligibility left. Surprisingly, I took that news pretty well, even if I wasn’t at my most emotionally stable. Even when other high profile guys left the program early – Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross – I’ve found it hard to blame them. In basketball more than any other sport – if for no other reason than the relatively small number of roster spots in the NBA compared to football and baseball – you’ve got to get yours while the iron is hot. When your stock is as high as it’s going to get – and the risk of staying in college outweighs the potential rewards – then you’ve got to do what’s best for you.
College basketball is a frustrating, imperfect system. I hate the One & Done rule. I think they should either make it a 2-year minimum (like they do with football), or offer up the D-League for kids who just don’t want to go to a university. Also, they should be giving these kids some money for attending, but that’s getting into a whole other issue entirely (I’ve come around quite a bit on this issue, to say the least; I’d be for a stipend rather than treating it like a Wild West free agency system).
On a micro level, relative to the University of Washington, I understand completely why a kid like NWG would want to leave. Look at it from his perspective: he’s going into his Junior year. He was once one of the highest-touted incoming Freshman point guards in the country. If the league was able to draft him straight out of high school, it’s highly likely he would’ve passed up going to college entirely. Now, two years in, the world has had a chance to examine the flaws in his game. He might still be a guy who’s able to make it in the NBA, but he’s no longer the hotshot point guard prospect he was two years ago. On top of that, he’s been the jewel of a crappy basketball program the last two years. It’s hard to get noticed – and show off what marketable skills you do have – when you’re on a bottom-dwelling team who can’t even crack the N.I.T. In that same vein, look at the players around him. A point guard can only do so much to make the rest of the players around him better; at some point you need those players to pick you up as well and make you look good too! The Huskies haven’t had the horses to boost up NWG’s already-somewhat-flawed game, and it doesn’t appear likely they’ll have anyone in the next year or two.
Then, you’ve got the mythic incoming class for 2015/2016. It’s supposed to be the best class Romar’s brought in maybe in his whole career. From the perspective of the program, it would’ve been ideal to have NWG around one more year, to help the kids acclimate to the college game. From NWG’s perspective, there’s a ton of risk involved with this proposition. What if these kids aren’t as good as advertised? Or worse, what if they’re BETTER than advertised and they make you look bad? Then, you’re on the same team with a number of player(s) who might be picked ahead of you.
In this situation, NWG’s holding all the cards. I mean, the offense was already pretty much tailored to his skillset, and to showcase his gifts. You’d have to think nothing would change in that regard next year.
But, I truly believe this is more of an issue of wanting to win above all else. There’s a very small chance of UW being a winning program next year, and that small chance just flew out the window with NWG transferring. If I’m NWG, and it’s looking like the NBA draft isn’t in the cards for me right now (in other words, I know I’m stuck in college at least another year), I’d MUCH rather go to a school that’s more of a sure thing to make the Tourney. Winning is just more fun than losing, period. The winters in Seattle suck about as much dick as possible; now imagine you’re the leader of a bottom-feeding basketball team who has to try to keep his head up in the face of all that losing and all those grey skies!
Believe you me, if I were qualified to blog for no pay about sports for other cities, I’d be gone in an instant!
Also, as for these rumors about players not getting along, I dunno. I’m reluctant to delve into all the team chemistry issues in sports. Players tend to get along better when they’re winning. Players tend to bicker a little more when they’re losing. Considering the lack of talent on this roster, I wouldn’t begrudge NWG one iota if he was a little selfish. It wasn’t something I particularly noticed as being a problem, but again, what’s he supposed to do? Defer to players who suck? How is it going to help our team win more ballgames if we take the ball out of the hands of our best player? I like Kingma as much as the next guy, but let’s get real.
This sucks, but don’t blame the kid. Loyalty to your school is probably one of the last things a professional franchise is going to look at. They want talented players who will help them win; they don’t give a shit if a kid transfers. And, staying true to your school for your entire college basketball career is only worthwhile if you have any ties whatsoever to that school. NWG is from Oregon. His ties to the UW are as deep as Lorenzo Romar’s recruiting ability and nothing more. He’s not a local kid making good. He’s a hired gun brought in because we’re good at showcasing our guards, because Lorenzo Romar is a great man, and because he has a history of sending guys to the NBA. What’s he going to miss out on, playing in a few UW Alumni Games? Yeah, that’s a rough one, but I think the kid’s future career and earning potential trumps that a little bit.
If the UW program was good – or at the very least on an upswing – I’d probably be more upset. But, at this point, what do I care? We’re a year away from blowing it all up anyway, so might as well not get all bent out of shape over something you can’t control. And, who knows? If we get a little Ewing Theory bounce-back from this move that no one could possibly foresee, then all the better.
In other news, Darin Johnson and Gilles Dierickx are also transferring. Ooooo, oh no, whatever will we do without these two guys?! I assume: forget they were ever a part of the program by this time next year.