by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

A Modest Proposal (for college hoops)

Do you know the man in the No. 3 jersey above? If you do there’s a 50% chance that you’re a college hoops writer for The Athletic. His name is Filip Petrusev and he’s a 6’11” sophomore at Gonzaga University. A Serbian by way of a tony Connecticut prep school (sort of like Rory Gilmore without the Paris baggage), Petrusev is the leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker for the Zags, who just happen to be the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.

I’m a sportswriter who generally stays on top of most sports (Roger Federer? Still not retired. There, see?) and I had no ide who Petrusev was 10 minutes ago. Truly.

I think this is Ryan Woolridge, but I’m not sure

The Zags, who defeated the University of San Diego 94-50 last night, also have Ryan Woolridge, who is their leader in assists and steals. I wouldn’t be able to pick Woolridge out of a lineup, be it a police lineup or a Zags starting five.

Is that a me problem or a college hoops problem? Maybe a little bit of both, but more the latter.

It’s not a Zags problem. The Spokane school has been around the scene as a college hoops potentate now for two decades. No, the problem, at least to me, is that college hoops’ best talent now stays one year at most or goes off to Australia or somewhere else to play in their gap year before entering the NBA draft. Whereas future NFL starters must play three seasons of college football first, where we get to know them and build a fan relationship with them.

By Season 5, only one original Angel remained (and they didn’t even do their famous pose any more)

Forget the ethics of it. The legality. The trampled rights of nineteen year-olds not being able to maximize their earning potential. College hoops is in trouble because its best programs (Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina) ordinarily turn over their entire starting lineup year-to-year nowadays. That’s a formula that killed Charlie’s Angels and it may kill college basekball as well, at least until mid-March.

So here’s my proposal. And before you slam it because it’s against NCAA rules, etc., let it breathe a moment. Forget about telling me why it can’t be done and tell me if college hoops (and the NBA) would be better off it were instituted. The plan:

After a player’s freshman season he becomes eligible for the NBA draft. A franchise may select him, but he still must play three years of college hoops, just like his gridiron counterparts do. The difference is that the NBA franchise must pay him. I’d suggest the following graduated rates…

–If taken in the first half of the first round, $1 million per year. In the second half of the first round, $750,000. First half of the second round, $500K. Second half of the second round, $250K. The player is paid while in school but not by the school, by the NBA team that chose him.

If the player is taken after his freshman season, he’d be paid for two more years under that structure. If after his sophomore season, one year. But the team retains the rights to that player and they’ve used one of their two very valuable draft picks to retain him. Easy peezy, right?

Now, you could end the entire solution there, but if you want to make it a little more sophisticated, you could have the “Cold Feet” addendum. If by the end of that player’s junior season the NBA franchise who selected him no longer believes he fits into their plans, for whatever reason, they can toss him back into the talent pool. The player still keeps the money he was paid for that one or two seasons. What does the team get in return? An extra pick in the first round somewhere. So if the team no longer fancies say, a Zion Williamson, they’d relinquish their rights to him and would get a second pick in the first round at the end of it.

Everyone wins. College fans get to know players better. College players who are at the top level get paid. NBA teams get a developmental system without losing top-tier talent to Australia or Lithuania or wherever. It makes too much sense, right?

Rome, If You Want To

Bookmarking The New York Times“52 Places To Travel in 2020” guide. Some people’s mouths water at NFL Mock Drafts (or Way Too Early Top 25 lists). Us, this is what gets our salivary glands going. Gotta travel jones…

Even if you don’t make it to any of these spots, the guide is so well done. It’s a treat to behold.

Five Films: 1991

  1. The Silence Of The Lambs: There’s simply not a wasted scene in this film, which begins and ends with two nightmare scenarios—a girl trapped in a lair of a dangerous man. Except this girl’s not so helpless. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Jodie Foster). And every statuette well-deserved. One of the all-time greats…and you’ll never listen to “American Girl” quite the same way ever again. 2. Thelma & Louise: I remember Susan Sarandon coming on to promote this film on Letterman and telling him, like the week it opened, that she believed this movie had “legs.” That is, that it would have staying power beyond the first weekend in the theater and beyond. The very title of the film now conjures the thought of two friends who are willing to make a suicide pact rather than relent to corrupt forces. Also, it’s Harvey Keitel’s first “Mr. Wolf” role of the decade, though none of us yet knew it. These first two films would make a Top 5 in any year. 3. What About Bob? Our two favorite Bill Murray films were released in the early Nineties—this and Groundhog Day. Here Murray taps into the fact that no one can play sweet and naive while also being an oblivious troublemaker quite as well as he can. It took a lot, I mean a lot, to make my old man laugh out loud, but he did watching this. Baby steps. 4. Defending Your Life: Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks in a beguiling little film about purgatory, of sorts, and what would happen if a tribunal had to decide whether or not the life you lived merited advancement to heaven. A line we’ll never forget, as Brooks attempts a stand-up routine here. “You sir, how did you die?” “Onstage, just like you.” 5. Dead Again: Remember when Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were a big, big deal? This was actually a smart, intricate little murder mystery with some supernatural stuff thrown in as I recall.

Never saw Boyz N The Hood, what can I say? Or Barton Fink. JFK was a letdown. The Prince Of Tides was drech–read the book.

3 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. Time to add an asterisk to the Starting Five section – been a little less lately 🙂

    I know, I know, you’re doing this for free and you have a day/night job. You’re my favorite sports (and occasionally pop culture and politics) writer. Your blog is a must read every morning.

    (Remember – I still want to buy you a beer next time your in the Chi-town area.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *