One of the big drawbacks to being a fan of college sports is that you can`t put your mind to rest at the end of a good season. Unless you just won the national championship, your mind immediately jumps ahead to next year, and you begin to wonder if your team might be able to go a little farther than it did this year. Iowa State fans are doing that tonight, no doubt. They`ll lose seniors Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen, but everybody else has eligibility left, and there are several incoming players that people are high on. It`s fair to guess that the Cyclones would be picked to finish very high in the Big 12 and be ranked in the preseason Top 25. They`ll have a true point guard in Korie Lucious, a good shooter in Tyrus McGee, a lockdown defender in Chris Babb, an underrated banger in Melvin Ejim and, of course, an all-world talent and possible preseason All-American in Royce White. Cyclone fans can barely wait to get in line for tickets, but then, someone pipes up and says: ‘If Royce doesn`t turn pro.’
It`s the X-factor that every college fan deals with at some time or another. You love having a great player on your team, but if he`s too good, too soon…he`s gone. And there isn`t a thing you can do about it.
A friend of mine brought that up in conversation the other night, and I shot it down like a mallard from a duck blind. Royce White is great, but he can be so much better! He could improve his jumper and keep getting better at the line. Wait until a true point guard is feeding him the ball, until his defensive positioning improves, and when he gets his nerves and confidence fully in check, LOOK OUT!
‘If he doesn`t turn pro.’ Why would he go pro when there is so much to come back for? An even better season, another Big 12 tournament, another N-C Double-A berth, and probably some pretty big individual awards. To us, those things are huge. But to a young man with his sights set on NBA glory and money, they`re probably just window dressing.
You can easily make a very good argument that Royce could improve his draft stock by working out the flat sides of his game in another season at Iowa State. There`s no question he could be a lottery pick…maybe higher than that if the conditions come together. But, those conditions are a couple of birds in the bush, and Royce White has already got one in hand: for two solid games in front of a national audience, he had Bill Raftery and the other broadcasters gushing over his every move and every NBA scout and draft junkie watching that game couldn`t take their eyes off of him. Those who haven`t seen him as much as we have see White`s skills, but what they see most is potential, and potential doesn`t usually improve. In other words, he might only hurt it by returning to college ball.
I hate the thought that I might be right about that. Everyone in America should live by the universal law that more college is better. Everyone should believe that their career can wait. The major professional sports leagues should do all in their power to support college athletics by keeping athletes in college! But then, that`s not how it works.
The reality sure isn`t pretty, is it? Unless you`re a fan of one of the big boys, you not only have to worry about your coach leaving for a higher-paying job, you have to worry about the players doing the same thing. You`d like to be the best, but the best basketball teams in the land lose one to four players to the NBA every year. That sucks, but that`s the price of great college ball, and the alternative is lousy college ball…and that`s sucks more.
I`m Andy Fales and that`s What`s Bugging Me.