In sports-writing parlance, it is known as the D-word. We hear it every time a college underclassman announces he plans to leave school early in order to turn pro.
"Ever since I was a little boy, it has been my dream to play in the NBA," says the departee.
The words aren't always in that sequence or form, but the D-word is always there. Dreams are dreams. Sometimes they come true. Sometimes they die hard.
In case you haven't noticed, Big 12 Conference basketball has produced a record number of dreamers this spring. Seven underclassmen have announced their intentions to test the NBA waters.
Five of the seven have hired agents, meaning their college careers are toast. The other two - Texas' Daniel Gibson and Colorado's Richard Roby - have left the door open to return, but don't hold your breath. They have until June 18 to secure a mouthpiece.
Of the seven, five or six really are dreaming. Their chances of landing a spot on an NBA roster are marginal. The only cinch is LaMarcus Aldridge, the 6-foot-11 sophomore from Texas.
Aldridge is projected as a lottery pick. The other six will be lucky to go in the first round of the June 28 draft.
Aldridge doesn't have much of a downside. He isn't a physically imposing player, and he's hardly what you would call a firebrand. Yet Aldridge, who won't turn 21 until July, figures to add weight with age, and he wouldn't be the first NBA standout who performs at a static emotional level.
The only other Big 12 underclassman with a shot at the first round is Roby, who, if you take away five inches, is another Aldridge. Both are physical naturals with similar even temperaments.
As of today, Roby still can return to the Flatirons. Be aware, though, that Roby has interviewed a few potential agents and is working out this semester in Southern California while taking CU courses online. That's enough smoke to make me think fire.
None of the other five Big 12 underclassmen has a ghost of a chance at the first round, but Iowa State guards Will Blalock and Curtis Stinson should go in the second round.
In fact, Blalock and Stinson probably should go as an entry because they're basically the same player. Both can play the point, but neither is really a talented ball-handler. Both also can play the off guard, but neither is really that good a shooter.
Moreover, Stinson turned 23 in February, and Blalock will be 23 in September. That's old-age in NBA-think.
By now, you're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned P.J. Tucker, the reigning Big 12 player of the year. Tucker did average 16.1 points a game as a junior at Texas last winter, and he did lead the conference in rebounding at 9.5 per game.
But Tucker stands 6-5, and his whole game is around the basket. The NBA takes 6-5 inside players, chews them up and spits them out to the CBA.
Texas teammate Gibson could go in the second round, too, but he doesn't have any real strength that I can see. He's just another above-average 6-3 guard, and they're a dime a dozen.
Finally, there's Missouri's Thomas Gardner, a 6-5 one-dimensional player who couldn't guard the Phog Allen statue. Educated guess: He'll be playing in Turkey next winter.