- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

Chris Wilcox used to be somebody in college basketball.
Now he is a rumor in Los Angeles, just another long-term project with the Clippers who is irrelevant to the team's immediate issue of securing 30 wins this season.
This is how it usually goes down with the stay/go players in college basketball. There is this massive buildup, this incredible anticipation, and then there is this vast emptiness, a trivia question, which is: Where is he now?
The one question inevitably leads to another. Why the overstated fuss in the first place?
Wilcox was one of the nation's leading stay/go players last season, the subject of the usual debate.
Is he staying at Maryland? Is he leaving? Stay, go. Go, stay. You remember the hand-wringing drill. You remember the panting, the drooling, the wagging of so many overweight tails.
At this point, you are obligated to note that books come first in college basketball. No, you can't put a price tag on a college education. There is an intrinsic value in a degree, perhaps greater than the millions awaiting a player in the NBA. Plus, there is always the grandmother lurking in the background. You do it for her. You made a promise.
As you know, it is often about the grandmother in college basketball. People can't speak enough about grandmothers in college basketball. It is grandmother this or grandmother that. The only thing more compelling than a live grandmother is a dead grandmother. Then the player has no choice but to commemorate the dead grandmother on his shoes, with the inscription, "Dead Granny."
The television camera inspires the artificial show. You have to be a college basketball player or a college coach to understand.
You know how smart all college coaches are. They are men of deep intellect, all of them, just the smartest. You have Dickie V's say-so on that. It is his job, relaying this important message to the masses at home. The message probably would pack a degree of substance if once, just once, Dickie V said, "See that guy in a puddle of sweat who acts as if he is achieving cold fusion in front of his players? He is as dumb as a brick."
But that is the system. What are you going to do? People have to do something to make a living. A straight answer is rarely part of it. Everyone usually goes along with the process, because everyone has been going along with it for as long as anyone can remember.
Each top underclassman off a top team in college basketball is a lottery pick at this time of the year, regardless of the statistical impossibility of it. A year from now, after many have decided they could not wait another a year for a new Hummer H2, you won't be able to find them without the help of the Pentagon's satellite system.
A word of caution to the several hundred lottery picks: You no longer can dismiss 1.4billion Chinese. You are competing with them as well, along with those in Europe, and one of these summers, there possibly will be word of the latest best thing living in New Guinea.
As it is, a high school player from Akron, Ohio, is expected to be the No.1 pick overall in the NBA Draft this June. It is a done deal. Have you heard the latest? LeBron James is said to be upset that the Cavaliers fired John Lucas this week. This is according to sources close to James or sources familiar with his thinking or sources familiar to those who are familiar with his schedule, courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
This is supposedly a serious item, as opposed to something devised by the writers of "Saturday Night Live."
Anyway, James might want to play with a team other than the Cavaliers now, which means Jim Paxson really blew it this time. Then again, blowing it is a habit with Paxson. He should have known about the relationship between Lucas and James and their secret workout last summer. Everyone else knew the secret, including the law enforcement branch of the NBA.
If Paxson wanted to handle this extremely delicate situation properly, he would have received either written or verbal permission from the 18-year-old James before handing a pink slip to Lucas, and that is that. Think what you want, but James, in his Hummer H2 with three television sets, already has the look and attitude of a franchise player.
Let's do the rough math: Counting James, China, Europe and the college ranks, there are perhaps as many as 500 lottery picks evaluating the situation before the draft in June, with a lucky few earning an anonymous but well-paid seat on the bench.

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