ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is still going strong, showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 70.
“I’ll be talking, ‘Awesome, baby’ at 90,” Vitale, guest of honor at Wednesday night’s Coaches Vs. Cancer banquet at Washburn University’s Student Union and featured speaker at the school’s Lecture Series in Lee Arena, exclaimed.
“They will have to take the mic away from me. They’ll have to take me out at courtside. I will do this until my last breath. I get goosebumps when I go to Kansas and people start chanting my name or when I go to Duke. It’s a love affair.”
Vitale — he’s never been afraid to state his opinion on the state of the game — on Wednesday spoke passionately against the growing trend of “one and done” players in college hoops. Kentucky’s John Wall and Kansas’ Xavier Henry were two of the biggest names who declared for the 2010 NBA Draft after just one season of college ball.
“I think ‘one and done (to NBA)’ is the biggest joke that’s ever hit college athletics. It’s an embarrassment to the term ‘student-athlete,’” Vitale said. “There’s no way a kid who comes in under the condition he’s there for one year is thinking about academics and worrying about going to class second semester. He’s thinking about one thing, man, getting that contract and going up the ladder.”
Vitale offered a solution.
“My ‘Vitale plan’ would be to form a panel of great names in the NBA ... general managers who know the league,” Vitale said. “Put them together, and they determine what high school kids are legit first-round picks, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or (Kevin) Garnett. Don’t force those kids to have to go through the system of going to college one year. They don’t want to be in college.
“Those kids should have the option. ‘If I want to go to college, I’ll go to college. If I want to go to the pros, I’ll go to the pros,’ but once you stay on campus you must be there three years like baseball. Baseball works beautifully because the NCAA, Major League Baseball all work together to make it happen, and it’s positive.”
Vitale said it would take a similar marriage between the NBA and NCAA, because right now the NBA likes the fact players attend college a year and develop an easily marketable name.
Also on Wednesday ...
• Vitale said he was pleased the NCAA decided to expand the NCAA tournament from 65 to 68 teams instead of 96.
“It would have awarded total mediocrity,” Vitale said of the 96-team field. “With 13 Big East teams projected to be in, what’s the purpose of playing the regular season?”
• He predicted great things from KU again next season.
“KU just got a phenomenal player in Josh Selby,” Vitale said of the 6-foot-2 guard from Baltimore. “They are in a battle now to get a kid (Terrence Jones) ... Kentucky wants him as well. Bill Self and Kansas will always be right at my top, right up there in the Big 12. He will always find players.”
Self and Henrickson on hand: KU coaches Self and Bonnie Henrickson attended Wednesday’s banquet. They are both active in Coaches Vs. Cancer.
“Having Dick Vitale involved brings a whole other element to this,” Self said. “Nobody is able to push a product that anybody believes in better than what he can. People who get the opportunity to hear him speak leave impressed and enthused.”
Jones presser set: Jones, a 6-8, 220-pound senior from Jefferson High in Portland, Ore., will announce his college choice at 5:30 p.m. Central time on Friday in a ceremony at his high school. Jones, who is Rivals.com’s No. 13-ranked player, visited KU Sunday through Tuesday. He’s also considering Washington, Kentucky, Oklahoma, UCLA and Oregon.
He’ll be joined by three Jefferson teammates who will make their college choices known, including Terrence Ross, a guard believed headed to Washington.
“None of us know nothing. He is keeping his college decisions to himself,” Jones’ teammate Antoine Hosley told the Oregonian.
Jefferson High coach Pat Strickland said coaches of Jones’ finalists have no idea where the player is headed.
“They call all the time and ask, ‘Do I still have a chance?’’’ Strickland said.
Recruiting: Self, who is not allowed to talk about specific unsigned recruits in accordance with NCAA rules, was asked to assess his recruiting during the late signing period.
“I don’t know. It was going good a couple weeks ago. We got a great commitment (Selby). We still have one scholarship to give. If we sign somebody late, we’ll be happy, but we are not going to take somebody just to take somebody. We are recruiting a young man that will make a decision soon. We’ll see what happens.”
Hardwood series: KU will play UCLA in the Big 12/Pac 10 hardwood series on Dec. 2 at Allen Fieldhouse, the league announced Wednesday. Other games in the series: USC at Nebraska (Nov. 27); Missouri at Oregon, Arizona State at Baylor (Dec. 2); Kansas State at Washington State (Dec. 3); Oregon State at Colorado, Cal at Iowa State, Texas Tech at Washington (Dec. 4); Texas at USC, Oklahoma at Arizona (Dec. 5); Washington at Texas A&M (Dec. 11) and Stanford at Oklahoma State (Dec. 21).