Archive for Monday, November 26, 2001

High school big men struggling

It’s painfully obvious youngsters need some seasoning in college before trying NBA

November 26, 2001

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— As Chicago teammates, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry talk regularly. Kwame Brown and DeSagana Diop chat often on the phone.

Maybe the four should get together one day on a conference call. The number to dial would be 1-800-MEWATCH.

The four big men, all drafted last June in the top eight straight out of high school, have done a lot of watching this season. It's quite evident they're all far from ready for the NBA.

Brown, selected with the No. 1 pick, is averaging a paltry 4.4 scoring average. Also microscopic are the averages of Chandler, the No. 2 pick who is putting up 3.0 a game, and Curry, the No. 4 pick who is at 4.7. Chicago's top rookie scorer is none other than guard Trenton Hassell, a second-round pick who played three years of college ball. His 9.6 average is more than what Chandler and Curry are scoring combined.

Then there's Diop, taken No. 8 by the Cavaliers. Diop is out for at least another week after injuring his knee during a scoreless six-minute stint in the season opener. Maybe it's not bad that Diop is hurt, so he can postpone the additional embarrassment of stepping on the court.

"Kwame and I talk a lot on the phone," said Diop, who got to know Brown when he roomed with him at several high school all-star tournaments

"We talk about how much tougher the league is than we thought it would be."

None of these Baby Hueys, though, has uttered any regrets about not going to college. After all, sitting on the bench as much as they do gives them plenty of time to decide how to spend their millions. None will admit it, but one wonders if the general managers who pulled the trigger on these four are having regrets.

This season's high school crop could be on a Jermaine O'Neal path. After being drafted out of high school in 1996, O'Neal didn't average more than 4.5 points in his first four seasons with Portland. He finally broke loose after being traded to Indiana before last season.

But O'Neal was the No. 17 pick in the draft. If any of this season's high schoolers were taken around that range, their uninspiring play wouldn't be such a big deal. The problem, though, is that teams are drafting high school players so high because of the fear of missing out on the next Garnett or Bryant.

With general managers salivating over the potential of high schoolers, players who had the audacity to play a few seasons in college are often kicked to the side.

Seniors? They're almost ignored. But Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley, an Iowa State senior who was taken with the 27th pick, is turning out to be the steal of the draft.

And Memphis swingman Shane Battier, a Duke senior drafted No. 6, also is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Scouts might not believe Battier has as much long-term potential as the high school players taken ahead of him, but he's averaging 39.3 minutes. Brown is averaging 20.7 minutes (and four times hasn't even played), and Curry and Chandler are both at 10.7.

It could get real bad for the 19-year-old Brown. He's threatening the record for the lowest rookie scoring average ever by a top draft pick, set when Portland's LaRue Martin put up 4.4 a game in 1972-73.

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