- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

John Gilchrist either has talked his basketball career into purgatory or someone with his ear has done it.

If Gilchrist is a potential first-round pick in the NBA Draft this June, then so is Nik Caner-Medley.

Gilchrist apparently is staking his NBA worthiness on the goings-on in Portsmouth, Va., Chicago and individual workouts with the interested parties.

He certainly has shown little in his college career at Maryland that indicates a readiness to compete against the gifted and talented guards of the NBA. If anything, his junior season indicated a compelling need to stay put, with the hope that another season would result in further development.

Here is a news flash to Gilchrist and the rest of the delusional: The NBA is stuffed with the best of the best, marvelously gifted men who sometimes rise no higher than ninth on a team’s roster.

Take Juan Dixon, the local favorite who led the Terrapins to the national championship three seasons ago and wound up as a backup with the Wizards. Dixon, simply put, was a wonderful collegian, the embodiment of hard work and perseverance trumping the long odds stacked against his basketball dream.

As resourceful and resilient as Dixon is, he has found the NBA to be a decidedly greater challenge. There are certain truths about Dixon that cannot be hidden in the NBA. His ball-handling skills are lacking; the same with his vision. His physique is hardly NBA quality. He is a step slow against the quicker guards in the NBA. He is, on some level, a one-dimensional shooter who provides quick offense off the bench.

That is no knock on Dixon. If you are going to have one skill in the NBA, shooting is the one skill to have. A player can have a long and prosperous career by just being able to sink the 3-pointer.

By the end of his career, Sam Perkins basically was down to shooting 3-pointers from a wheelchair. No apologies were necessary. By then, he was 70 years old or so following a productive career.

Gilchrist is hardly a pure shooter. He even struggled from the college game’s charitable 3-point line. There is nothing about Gilchrist that suggests NBA. He is a couple of steps too slow. He does not defend with passion. He is not all that adept at creating his own shot. Worse, he is living in fantasyland.

NBA general managers and coaches are never eager to put a fantasyland person on the roster, because the season is long and arduous enough without adding unnecessary baggage to it.

The exception, such as Ron Artest, scores 20 points a game and defends as if his mother’s honor is dependent on the outcome of it.

The relationship between Terps coach Gary Williams and Gilchrist was a wearying element of the team’s underachieving season. Williams discussed it anew following the NIT, without being expansive. He undoubtedly will be a lot more expansive to the NBA general managers who dial his office.

One aspect of the friction was fairly obvious: As the season was going down the tubes, the point guard, who was part of the problem, had his misguided sights on the NBA.

You want to know the competitiveness of the NBA? The Wizards-Hawks game Wednesday told it all.

The Hawks are as desultory as it gets in the NBA, an 11-win team going nowhere that has only one legitimate pro-caliber starter in Al Harrington.

Yet the Hawks extended the fatigued, injury-riddled Wizards to the end. And the Hawks completed more physically challenging plays against the Wizards than you might see in a month’s worth of college games.

The NBA is a monster league, even more so than the NFL, because roster spots are so few and just being someone who is willing to run through a brick wall is not a ticket to employment.

If you ever want to kill a day, pull out the NBA’s all-time roster and check out the high number of cup-of-coffee players.

It is hard to imagine what Gilchrist is thinking. Maybe no one has had the stomach to tell him that he is out of his mind. Well, maybe Williams has told him. But Williams has told him a number of things, and obviously Gilchrist tuned his voice out at some point.

By now, given everything that has been said and written, perhaps Gilchrist is no longer wanted in College Park.

If so, he ought to consider transferring to another college. The benefit would be an additional year to develop after meeting the NCAA sit-out rule.

Gilchrist’s three seasons at Maryland and his NBA pursuit come down to three outstanding games of the ACC tournament last year. Otherwise, his college career has been mostly ordinary.

None of this is to wish failure on Gilchrist. This is merely to note the reality of the NBA, a man’s league that treats the marginal and peach-fuzz brigade with extreme prejudice.

You read of Gilchrist leaving school early to go to the NBA and you recall God Shammgod.

The point guard left Providence after two seasons and received a cup of coffee from the Wizards as a second-round pick in 1998, and that was that.

Total number of games: 20.

Perhaps it worked out as well as it ever could for Shammgod.

Who knows? To which can be added: What, then, was the darn rush?

Shammgod blew off two college seasons for 20 NBA games and the chump change of the second round.

Gilchrist can retain his college options, so long as he does not hire an agent.

Staying in college, either at Maryland or somewhere else, easily would be his best move of a forgettable season.

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