- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

Carmelo Anthony has decided to bag his valuable college experience after one season and jump to the awaiting riches of the NBA.

This has become another annual rite of spring following the NCAA tournament.

Coaches bounce to the next rung on the college basketball food chain, while those players in a position to command millions take the fast train to the NBA.

All this is managed in the context of amateurism, as it is defined by the NCAA, most often with a wink and a nod.

Anthony is said to be a top-three pick in the NBA Draft in June, which was a fairly compelling reason to leave the pleasant company of Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse winter.

His flavor of the moment status is never going to be more powerful than it is following a national championship.

Perceptions are funny.

Terence Morris was slated to be a lottery pick after his sophomore season at Maryland, only he stuck around the next two seasons and wound up being an afterthought in the second round of the draft.

Chris Wilcox, no doubt, used that as a guidepost in his decision to leave Maryland after his sophomore season last year.

You might have trouble finding Wilcox now. He ended up being a wealthy nobody with the Clippers last season. He might have led Maryland back to the Final Four. He was good enough at the college level to mean two games in the tournament.

These are the impossible decisions before too many young men each spring, none really in a position to read the signs emanating from the crystal ball.

They do know that the authority figures in their midst are getting incredibly wealthy off their sweat and that loyalty is sometimes a one-way street, ever dependent on the next opening for a coach.

This is the message that seeps to the undergraduates, even those possibly enrolled on the merit of a welding certificate.

Anthony is all smiles at the moment, which is certain to change by next winter after he becomes a glorified model sitting at the end of a bench in the NBA. He could turn out to be a player, or he could turn out to be another interchangeable part who collects jersey tops along the way.

The assessments, however favorable, fail to measure the size of a player's heart in relation to the size of his wallet.

Hunger has a way of dissipating around fat wallets. Women in tight pants don't help either.

Shawn Kemp was a six-time All-Star before the women and alimony payments drained him of his vigor.

These are the pitfalls, and the pratfalls, too, before those too eager to live the life. This is the concern with LeBron James, the high school player motoring around Akron, Ohio, in a Hummer H2. The NBA is littered with cliches.

The NBA chews up the young, some of whom only know how to run and jump. Darius Miles is still limited to both tasks after three seasons in the NBA. The same goes for DeShawn Stevenson in Utah. They are potential track stars, really, closer to Carl Lewis than to Michael Jordan.

More than ever, the NBA Draft is a dance with doubt. The only certainty is uncertainty.

You can tell by the before-and-after summaries of Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, the three favored ones from Duke. Williams was the No. 2 pick overall in the draft last June, Dunleavy the No. 3 pick overall, and Boozer a second-round pick who seemed to be the odd one out.

One year after the fact, Williams is looking to develop a clue, Dunleavy is looking to develop an NBA body and Boozer is the one who enjoyed a solid season.

The precocious ones wrestle with the NBA in two antithetical parts. The money part is easy. Only the hopelessly idealistic cling to the intrinsic value of an education with so many dollars on the table. The basketball part is hard, the outcome often rude.

Washington has seen that with Kwame Brown, the No. 1 pick overall in the 2001 draft who is two years removed from high school.

Brown has a nice contract to assuage the boos and complaints being tossed his way. He is, like it or not, growing up on Abe Pollin's dime, the terms of the original agreement. The terms only changed because of the impatience of Jordan and Doug Collins.

Yet that is the deal today, Anthony just the latest to accept its raw force.



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