- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

These are basketball players, after all. You can't teach height, and sometimes, you can't even teach math.
Forty-seven underclassmen have made themselves eligible for the draft, not including Jawan Simpson, who, in case you were wondering, elected to stay at Puget Sound (Wash.) Christian College, appropriately enough. With many of the prospects, prayer is as important as a quick first step.
God Shammgod took it to the extreme, embracing a higher power in name, and lasted parts of two seasons with the Wizards. He would have been a senior at Providence College at the time of his release in 1999.
Forty-seven underclassmen and seven early entries from abroad add up to 54. That's not counting the Shane Battiers of the college world, and the rest of world in general. It is a big world, at least big enough for Wang Zhizhi.
Some of those in a hurry have as much chance to be playing in the NBA next season as the man in the moon, in this case Jamario Moon, who is actually from Meridian (Miss.) Community College.
The 29 NBA teams are slated to make 57 picks, one fewer than normal because of the contractual hanky-panky between the Timberwolves and Joe Smith. The Timberwolves do not have a first-round pick in the draft, which is David Stern's reminder to play fair off the court.
If many of the hopefuls can't add, perhaps they can spell. That backup lesson plan used to be provided by the C-B-A, now just a memory, and not a pleasant one if you're Isiah Thomas.
The six high school hotshots are sensitive to the charge that a free education is an awful thing to dismiss. Education is the lie peddled by the elixir-pushing suits who suffer from a conflict of interest.
DeSagana Diop, the 7-footer from Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, noticed America's contradictory position on this matter after watching the celebration around 13-year-old Morgan Pressel in the U.S. Women's Open earlier this month. Diop also might have mentioned America's silence around the teens involved in professional baseball and hockey.
"I don't know how people are going to criticize us going to the pros instead of going to college," Diop says.
The history of prep stars moving to the NBA is actually a pretty good one, notwithstanding the legal charges before DeShawn Stevenson involving a 14-year-old girl. She must have looked 34.
Not every athletically gifted person is academically engaged, as much as that fundamental truth hurts the bottom line in college, the wins, losses and coffers.
You need electricians, and garbagemen, too.
Horace Jenkins tried both professions out of necessity, to feed his two children, before taking his artistry on the playground to Division III William Paterson (N.J.) University. This explains his incriminating age, 26, if not his projection as a second-round selection. Jenkins is in good company. Larry Bird started out as a garbageman, too.
Kwame Brown, the prep star from Georgia who is expected to be a high lottery pick, has received a different kind of education over the years. He is motivated by his mother's slipped disc, sustained while she was cleaning rooms at a Days Inn.
"I've got to take care of Mom," Brown says. "I'm one of eight kids, and she never bailed on us."
Terence Morris is confident. Give him that. He is driving around in a newly acquired Mercedes, despite indications from the NBA that it might have been wiser to look into a Saturn. He stayed all four seasons at Maryland, the last two at a cost to his pre-draft stock. He is bound to be picked, just not necessarily in the first round.
That beats the situation before Sir Valiant Brown, to sir not with love, but with indifference, and not to confuse the distinction with Sir Paul McCartney.
That also raises another issue. Who conferred knighthood on Sir Valiant, Sir Tommy Penders?
So Washington is awaiting the draft with a Sir but no Doctor, Patrick, who finally decided he couldn't help Michael Jordan's team or his two broken ribs.
The fog of the NBA's war rooms apparently is contagious, extending from Foggy Bottom to the Orange Coast. The latter is the name of a college in California, where Nick Burwell spent two years honing his game.
Who's advising who, the blind and the blind?
The SATs remain culturally biased, or so it is said, the NBA Draft one way around them.
The NBA exercises a different form of bias. The math is grim.
Practice makes perfect, in basketball as well as in math.
Forty-seven and seven is 54 before taking into account all the college seniors and international flavors of the moment. The final count does not go into 57 very well, to say the least, and that is assuming all 57 picks stick in the NBA, which they don't.
Here's another math problem from the NBA: 12 times 29 is 348. That is roughly the number of players in the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-10.
Johnny can't read, and he can't do the math either.

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