- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2009

HE SAID WHAT?

“I thought we were going into a hornets nest. I didn’t think we were going into an earthquake.” - Louisville coach Rick Pitino, after his fifth-ranked Cardinals were upset by unranked Notre Dame

Climbing for Wall

Duke’s fourth straight home loss to North Carolina last week reminded us that the Blue Devils are, at best, the No. 2 team in their state. It also explained why Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would be recruiting John Wall.

For all of his deserved reputation as a molder of young men, Coach K is an Oakland Raider at heart. Not the recent, hapless Raiders, but the old version. Just Win, Baby.

A newspaper labeled Wall, a 6-foot-4 guard from Raleigh, N.C., the best unsigned high schooler in the country. He is featured on several YouTube highlights, one of which is titled “The Sickest Player in the World.” Accordingly, he is the focal point of a major recruiting war. Duke, North Carolina State, Miami (Fla.), Kansas, Memphis and Baylor are among those in the hunt.

On the court, his resume is impeccable. Here are the off-the-court essentials of young Mr. Wall: He already has announced he will play one year in college before heading to the NBA. He is in his fifth year at his third high school. He is linked with a shoe company and coaches who may or not be out to cut a deal.

Wall also was kicked off one of his teams for what a former teammate described to a reporter as a “behavior issue.” But the best part is that Baylor has hired Wall’s former AAU coach as its director of player development, and one of his best friends has enrolled at a junior college in Waco, Texas, a few miles from the Baylor campus. Guess who’s the front-runner for Wall’s abbreviated services?

Wall no doubt will provide temporary yet instant gratification. But he belongs at Duke - or anywhere with classrooms and scholarships - as much as Dick Vitale belongs in a slam dunk contest.

Of course, Wall is hardly the only one with a dubious past and shaky academic credentials. There are plenty to go around. Which is why the NBA needs to change its silly one-year-of-college rule and again allow high school kids to be drafted. Let them play with the big boys or in the D-League and do what they do best. And let the college hoop powers more subtly and discreetly pretend to educate their athletes.

TWT FIVE: ALL-STARS IN SUCCESSIVE ABA AND NBA SEASONS

1. George McGinnis (1975 Indianapolis, 1976 Philadelphia) He once had 52 points and 37 rebounds in a game with the Pacers.

2. Julius Erving (1976 New Jersey, 1977 Philadelphia): He made ABA/NBA All-Star teams in each of his 16 seasons.

3. Dan Issel (1976 Denver, 1977 Denver): He ranks seventh all-time in combined ABA/NBA scoring.

4. George Gervin (1976 San Antonio, 1977 San Antonio): Won four NBA scoring titles in five years after the merger.

5. David Thompson (1976 Denver, 1977 Denver): He led All-Star balloting in first NBA season.

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