From an early age we teach our schoolboy basketball stars how to play the fans and media. We ask them to give us lists of schools they’re considering, then rank those schools and say which ones are "in the lead" and which ones are in the death spiral.
They see what happens when they put something on Twitter about a coach or post a picture from some recruiting visit. Everybody trying to read the tea leaves, look for little clues, dissect it like "True Detective"and find hidden meaning.
And I think they’ve started messing with us. All of us.
The very latest is a tweet from someone named Taylor Anderson:
OK, so that’s nothing, right? She could be referring to anything. Except Anderson’s boyfriend is Nik Stauskas, sophomore Big Ten player of the year and guard for Michigan, which is still playing in the NCAA tournament.
Clearly, this meant Stauskas planned to declare for the NBA Draft and propose to his girlfriend, right?
Michigan fans and others prone to speculation about things like this set about making a whole big thing of this. Anderson got a bunch of tweets about it and let it hang in the air for two days before dumping the whole thing down the sink:
Just to clarify to all speculation.. I'm excited for next year because my family is moving. As you can see from my previous tweets.
I’m not saying I think Stauskas had something to do with that. I’m just saying I’m starting to feel messed with. I’m starting to see a lot of blue-chip recruits make misdirection plays and fakeouts on the recruiting trail, and I’m starting to see NBA prospects tease their fans with hints they are coming back to school.
Kansas big man Joel Embiid has done that more than once this year. Embiid, a freshman who is likely to be among the top three picks in June’s NBA Draft, sent out this vague missive Monday:
Again, that could mean anything right? He could be wondering if dogs could talk. He sent this out on Monday, a day after Kansas had been eliminated from the NCAA tournament in a game Embiid had missed with an injury. Maybe this is, "What if I had been healthy?"
Of course, every Kansas fan was hoping, "What if I came back?"
Embiid was more explicit about it on Kansas’ senior night:
Amazing night for the seniors…Can't wait to be a senior 🏀🏀 Too bad I didn't play but they took care of business #WeAllFromAfrica#kubball
I’m not saying Joel Embiid was intentionally misleading fans. I’m just saying I’m feeling a little messed with. Outside of the college experience, Embiid has no incentive to return to Kansas for a sophomore season. He could be the No. 1 overall pick. There’s no real reason for him to talk about his plans until he’s made them official. But it seems weird to dangle a carrot in front of fans like that, doesn’t it?
I’m not sure exactly what your angle is here, basketball players. But I’m on to you.