It’s actually been a fairly busy week in the world of college hoops despite the mid-summer lull, so let’s take a look at some of the other key stories coming down the pike…
- Hoop Dreams, 15 Years Later. This week in his Hoops Thoughts column, Seth Davis pushed us down memory lane to the grungy days of 1994, a year of Cobain, Madonna’s undies and OJ’s white Bronco, but also of a bedraggled jewel of a documentary called “Hoop Dreams.” We have a fair amount of younger readers on this site, so if you’ve never seen this movie, stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, and rent it on Netflix or your local movie shop. It is without question the best basketball film ever made. Davis’ summary of the movie is good so we won’t belabor that here, but even fifteen years later, the movie holds its color, bouquet and taste much better than most items from that era. We slightly quibble with Davis on his contention that HD was the first reality tv (The Real World says hello) or that the two players featured in the film, William Gates and Arthur Agee, were ordinary people (their extraordinary skills at basketball at a young age is what made them not ordinary), but we completely agree with his fundamental assessment that the authenticity behind these two players’ struggles still resonates today. The early 90s, when Gates and Agee were documented in the film, was an era at the edge of a precipice in two key cultural shifts that are still impacting the game: 1) the worldwide online revolution of 1995, which has impacted scouting and recruiting in an exponential fashion now that players can be commodified based on Youtube clips and independent assessments from anywhere on the globe; and 2) Kevin Garnett’s decision to go to the NBA straight out of HS in 1995 led to a sea change in how high school players were viewed, pushing scouting (and dreams of riches) earlier and earlier into a player’s development. From a re-viewing of the movie in 2009, it’s easy to see the seeds of World Wide Wes and his ilk as assembly-line talent evaluator-cum-agents strategically dropping their whispers of fame and fortune into player family’s ears at a young age. What was once limited to the bigger cities and at a much smaller scale is now ubiquitous; where elite players were once counseled by their coach (as in, their HS coach, not their AAU coach), they now listen to runners and quasi-representatives from shoe companies. All of the dirty elements that are plaguing today’s amateur player development and the college game are there on display, in a rawer, more transparent form, in Hoop Dreams. The authenticity of how the system uses these players, only to spit them out when they’re no longer useful, is front and center – how have things changed? Thanks to Seth for re-awakening everyone to this movie – it’s a must-see.
- SEC-TV. Starting this fall, the SEC announced that it will broadcast an all-SEC sports network as part of its new $2.25B deal with ESPN. The SEC Network (through ESPN Regional) will syndicate its college football and basketball games to 73 (and counting) markets, but what makes this announcement particularly compelling is how the SEC has strategically decided to move outside its traditional nine-state southeastern footprint for this deal. Local affiliates in the major markets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as the three major Texas cities, are included in this deal, which unequivocally shows that the SEC isn’t playing games in terms of its foray to dominate college sports through national recruiting. Where this could really pay dividends is not with the Kentuckys and Floridas, but with the Mississippi States and the Georgias of the SEC. If games involving those teams are on tv in major media markets showing recruits a fun, winning style, they might be more inclined to consider going there over local state U. How will the other leagues react?
- F the Gazelle Group. They’re back again this season with another faux-tournament in the form of the Legends Classic. Remember our piece shredding them on this last year? If you don’t, here’s a refresher. The Gazelle Group got upset when little Gardner-Webb upset Kentucky in Rupp two years ago during a preliminary round game, meaning that the legions of UK fans they expected to buy tickets the next week weren’t showing. So what’d they do the next year – they fixed the tournament! Yep, all four of the ‘host’ teams get automatic entry to the Championship Rounds (final four teams) despite what happens in the prelims. Total asinine garbage. This year’s four faux-champs? Michigan St., Rutgers, Florida and UMass. MSU-Florida could be interesting, and definitely keep an eye on summer hotshot Mike Rosario from Joisey (playing in AC).
- Quick Hits. Anthony Mason, Jr.: back in a Johnnies uni for 09-10. Jim Calhoun: still going full bore. Josh Selby/World Wide Wes: that’s just messed up. Wooden Classic: Georgetown v. Washington; UCLA v. Mississippi St. Coach K: are Duke fans mad atcha? Murray Bartow: 2-year extension at ETSU. Dickie V: Summer Rolls-Roycers. Top 25 Recruits: broken down. Gary Parrish: on the summer circuit. Six OTs: enjoy. Antonio Burks: recovering after robbery where he was shot. Centenary: downgrading to D3. WCC Tourney: in Vegas through 2012 (at least). 2010 Vegas Odds: sell Louisville.