NCAA BK

BURLISON notes: KU, Syracuse take draft detour

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 

NEW ORLEANS

Because of the mind-numbing riches offered up by NBA franchises to its most valued employees these days, players such as and of Kansas, as well as of , aren't supposed to exist in college basketball. This season, at least, they do. And that's why anyone who thinks of the NCAA's Final Four as the niftiest diversion we've got going in the country these days should be so pumped up about what's taking place in the Superdome Monday night. The climate being the way it is in this era, we're almost taken aback when a college junior gets fairly solid assurance that he would be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft yet elects to return for his senior season. And Kansas has not one but two of those guys. The 6-foot-9 Collison and the 6-3 Hinrich, chums via the AAU circuit since they were high school sophomores in Iowa, could have joined their Kansas classmate, , in the NBA draft last June. Ultimately — with the sting of the disappointment of losing in a Final Four semifinal to — they opted to come back to Lawrence for another season. Where would Roy Williams' Kansas team have been this season without Collison and Hinrich in its lineup? Well, we know where it wouldn't be, and that's in the Superdome playing for a national championship. Anthony, after earning MVP honors in the McDonald's All-America games and the Capital Classic last spring, was being projected by NBA scouts as a possible late-lottery to mid-teens pick in the first round of the 2002 draft. But the 6-8 forward, at the urging of his mother, opted to spend at least one year at . Would the Orangemen be lining up for the center jump in front of 54,000 or so fans if Anthony were an NBA rookie right now? Uh, huh — sure they would.

LeBron vs. Carmelo

I don't think I've appeared on one radio show in the past week without having to answer the question "If you were an NBA general manager, would you pick LeBron James or ?" The line of reasoning to the "Why wouldn't you pick Anthony?" thinking seems to be that Anthony is a more proven commodity because he's "shown how dominant he can be on the major college level" while James "has only dominated high school kids". OK ... once and for all, repeat after me: "The NBA's system of scouting and draft is based on projection." And almost every NBA scout, general manager or personnel director I know believes that James' "upside" potential is superior to Anthony's. Don't get me wrong. Everyone believes that Anthony will eventually be an all-star caliber player and a player capable of averaging 20 points per game for much of his NBA career. But talent evaluators see something even rarer in the package of skills that James will bring to the league next season. They see a 6-8, 225-pound player with true point guard skills, someone capable of — in the best possible scenario — being a backcourt player unlike anyone in the league since Johnson. Remember: No one would dare say he's going to be the "next Johnson." But he's got most of the same physical dimensions, skills (especially ball handling and passing) and flair for making teammates better that Johnson had when joined the as 19-year-old in 1979. That's why no one picking No. 1 is going to pass on James, no matter how wonderfully Anthony has played for . And that's exactly the same reasoning I would use, too, if someone were paying me the big bucks to make a decision.

Monkey off one back

The great thing about this championship game is that people will never again be able to write or say of Roy Williams of Kansas or Jim Boeheim of that they "can't win the big one." And the bad thing the Kansas-Syracuse game is that, afterward, people will write and say that "Williams (or Boeheim) is overrated as a coach because he can't win a national championship." Oh, please ... Let's just think back to less than two weeks ago and recall how close Kansas came to losing to in the first round of the tournament before edging the Aggies 64-61. And considering the way was raining 3's down the stretch, the Tigers could have knocked out if their second-round game had continued for 30 seconds longer. Whoever wins the natinonal championship, Williams and Boeheim are the same coaches that they would have been had their teams lost. And Williams and Boeheim don't need to be reminded of how fine the line is that exists between the coaches who are on the sidelines of national championship games and their peers sitting in the Superdome stands. Other coaches won't change their opinions of Williams' and Boeheim' coaching abilities and accomplishments, regardless of who wins. Neither should we. can be reached at his e-mail address, fburlison@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Lakers, Magic, Iowa, Maryland, Utah State, Auburn, Syracuse, Kansas

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