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June 13, 2007
By David Scott
Special to CSTV.com
David is a contributor to CSTV.com's basketball coverage.
So what would you do? If - and we realize what a huge if this is - you had game. Mad game. Kevin Durant Game. Greg Oden Game.
What would you do? Are the perks of college satisfactory enough for a 19-year-old male to choose dorm rooms (in college) over champagne rooms (presumably, in the NBA)? Isn't it the least bit tempting to have one more year of fun. One more year of ACC, SEC or Big East play? One more year of the madness of March?
"Honestly?" asked North Carolina's heralded freshman and potential top five pick, Brandan Wright, who helped the Tar Heels to the Final Four. "Yeah, I know it may never be that way again. But I chose to grow up at the age of 19 (he turns 20 Oct. 5). I chose to go into the `real world' and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Also looking forward to the challenge of playing in the NBA, but remembering back to the "good ole days" of college are fellow frosh like Washington big man Spencer Hawes, Ohio State's flashy guard combo of Mike Conley, Jr. and Daequan Cook and Georgia Tech's answer of Javaris Crittenden and Thaddeus Young. (In all, the NBA released a list including nine freshmen as the 2007 Early Entry candidates. Freshmen who maintain their eligibility by not signing with an agent are able to pull out of the Draft up until June 18.)
"What will I miss most? The Oval in the springtime," said Oden, the gregarious teenager who still wears his official OSU dorm keys around his neck. "I'm being totally honest with you. The Ohio State Oval is the beach without sand. It's great."
After a freshman year of The Oval's goodness, Oden even went as far as to say that he wouldn't have gone directly to the NBA last year, even had the rules allowed it.
"I wouldn't have come out," he said. "I wasn't ready to be a grown man just yet. But that year of college, it did me some good. I know it did me some good."
Oden's not just talking about on the court, where his game steadily improved after his right wrist surgery before the season. He, and his fellow frosh, all value what they were given in one year of campus activity.
"Just being a student helped a lot," said Conley, Jr. "I haven't lived on my own before and it was fun to live around Greg and Daequan and a lot of my close friends. And we got to enjoy a great season as freshmen that a lot of players don't get to enjoy. Going to the championship game and things like that - it was a wild ride and I just enjoyed every part of it.
"We grew up a lot this year. In the beginning you could have labeled us as freshmen, but in the middle of the season we were feeling like sophomores and juniors. We felt like we had control and we could say our opinions to the coaches and other players. It really helped us grow as a team and grow as individuals and it got us ready for the NBA."
Durant, the likely No. 2 pick who was the first freshman ever to be named national player of the year, also got a boost out of dorm-living.
"I stayed in the dorms so I experienced the whole college experience," said Durant. "I was meeting new people, seeing new people every day. I had never been in Texas before I lived there and just being there in Austin was great."
Hawes is one of the bigger names who is still hemming and hawing a bit about staying in the draft (and truth be told, he'd be well-served by another season or two of the college game). A virus in the middle of his freshman season brought his playing weight down from 245 to 227, he said, and only recently has he returned to his bulkier, more NBA-ready size. More than the physical questions (and ones of athletic ability and speed), Hawes seems to be having too much fun playing the role of a staunch conservative in the hotbed of liberalism at Washington.
"I love the whole college experience," said Hawes, who proudly supports George Bush "100 percent" and has a Rudy Giuliani '08 bumper sticker on his car. "I kind of thought class was fun, I don't really mind it."
In fact, Hawes gets pretty darn animated about some of his classes. Before touching down in
"It was for my final and I denied the existence of global warming," said Seattle native. "That movie was one big lie. It was the media's liberal, over-exaggeration of everything."
For Hawes' sake, let's hope he sees the over-exaggeration of him being a lottery pick and returns to his "fun" classes for at least another year. At least he's still got that opportunity. For Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, the days of The Oval and Austin are long gone.