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Archive for Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Woodling: Jayhawks plentiful in NBA

April 17, 2007

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I would have bet that every college basketball player who opted to turn pro before graduation would have said it.

But Julian Wright didn't.

During Wright's media session, the Kansas University sophomore never once uttered the familiar words: "It's always been my dream to play in the NBA."

Perhaps young boys don't dream of playing in the NBA anymore.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago while I was doing a stint as a Junior Achievement volunteer teacher - this time in a fifth-grade class at Quail Run School - the students had an opportunity to say what they wanted to be when they grew up.

More of the boys, I learned, were interested in becoming pro skateboarders than they were in playing in the NBA. The count was close, though.

Either way, the odds of any of those fifth-grade boys becoming professional athletes in any sport are infinitesimal. They have a better chance of making the big money - when they're old enough, of course - if they purchase a lottery ticket.

Probably, in retrospect, many of the young males in these parts have a skewed perception of the paucity of pro jobs because so many KU basketball players are in the NBA.

During the 2006-07 season, eight former Jayhawks were on NBA rosters, and their combined salaries were about $43 million, or what sounds like the gross national product of New Guinea.

Here's a look at the eight former KU players who hit the jackpot in descending order of annual salary:

Paul Pierce ($15,101,626), Boston - Weary of playing for a once-proud franchise now on the skids, Pierce could be wearing a different uniform next season. Meanwhile, his contract is guaranteed through 2011.

Raef LaFrentz ($11,532,037), Portland - LaFrentz, once the third player selected in the NBA Draft, has spent most of this season on the bench. Clearly on the downside of his pro career, he'll still be going to the bank for two more years whether he plays or not.

Drew Gooden ($6,645,402), Cleveland - Cavs hoping Gooden will be Mr. Inside to LeBron James' Mr. Outside, but Gooden remains inconsistent with his third pro team. Like LaFrentz, his contract is good through 2009.

Kirk Hinrich ($3,192,000), Chicago - Enjoying his best overall season as a pro, Hinrich may be Steve Nash in training wheels. Look for his stock to climb during the playoffs.

Nick Collison ($2,501,000), Seattle - Collison missed one full season with shoulder woes, but has shown flashes in his second full pro year. Still has an upside, but probably will need to expand his shooting range. Signed through 2011.

Scot Pollard ($2,200,000), Cleveland - With his pact running out this season, Pollard's pro days are probably over. Don't feel sorry for him, though. Despite minimal offensive skills, Pollard lasted a decade in the NBA.

Jacque Vaughn ($1,071,000), San Antonio - Like Pollard, Vaughn has spent 10 years in the NBA, mostly as a reserve. But how many extras do you know who earn a million bucks a year?

Wayne Simien ($932,760), Miami - Saddled with injuries at Kansas, Big Dub has battled illness (salmonella) as a pro, so the jury is still out. Signed through next season, with a team option for the following year.

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