As a player who has been on the radar of NBA teams for quite some time, Creighton’s Doug McDermott has faced as much scrutiny as any prospect in the draft. Three years of college basketball is ample time for NBA scouts and executives to pick apart the weaknesses of any player, sometimes at the risk of forgetting about his strengths. Entering his senior season, McDermott is no exception to this dynamic. Lots of questions about his athleticism, position, body, and rebounding have piled up during his dominating run at Creighton.
Despite all that, McDermott looks poised to maintain his extremely high level of production for his final year in school. He has plenty of positive attributes to bring to a team at the next level, but the tricky part is determining which ones will carry over to the NBA. It’s performances like his 37-point outburst against the University of Missouri–Kansas City on November 11 that showcase McDermott as both a known commodity and prospect whose draft stock will likely remain fluid right up until his name is called in June.
Here is what I learned after going to Omaha to take a live look at McDermott earlier this month.
Len Bias would have turned 50 years old today. His death, brought on from cardiac arrhythmia due to cocaine use, just two days after being selected by the Boston Celtics as the no. 2 pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, has become one of sports' great cautionary tales. Take the time to read Bill Simmons's Page 2 column from June 2001 on Bias, the promise he showed as a player, and how his death marked the beginning of a dark time in Celtics history and remains a hallmark moment from America's "war on drugs" era. Below, we celebrate Bias's life with video highlights from one of his most legendary performances for Maryland, when the Terrapins took on Michael Jordan and the North Carolina Tar Heels in 1984. In a game that featured Jordan, Sam Perkins, and eventual no. 1 pick Brad Daugherty, Bias was the standout, scoring 24 points.
I had a chance to be in Chicago on Tuesday night to cover the college basketball games for Grantland, and I said no for two reasons. First, because most early-season college basketball showcases are sloppy and a little bit depressing. Second, because after the months of obsession over Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle, there's no way they could possibly live up to it.
People were comparing Wiggins to Durant and McGrady. Jabari Parker was supposed to be Paul Pierce and Glenn Robinson, and Julius Randle was the closest thing people had seen to LeBron.
There were 80 NBA scouts in attendance last night, which is a reminder that (a) NBA teams probably waste SO MUCH money scouting players they'll never have a chance to draft, and (b) this has all gotten kind of ridiculous. The United Center sold out the stadium Tuesday, and tickets for what was basically a preseason basketball exhibition were going for $750 apiece. We were due for a letdown.
But then all the players in Chicago made me look like an idiot.
If we’re going off StubHub, which is the objective arbiter of all things hype, last night’s Champions Classic was one of the most anticipated basketball showcases in recent history. So while the basketball turned out so good that people seem to be overlooking the fact that the games were choppy whistle bonanzas, I was there for more anthropological reasons. To Chicago:
Every now and then, we will attempt to write the worst sports column on earth. Today: Let's talk about Andrew Wiggins and the new culture in America's gymnasiums.
CHICAGO — It's not that nobody's excited for college basketball this year. We have more talent than ever all across the country, and when things tip off in Chicago tonight, it will herald the dawn of one of college basketball's most anticipated seasons in years. From coast to coast, there's a wellspring of hope. So why do I keep seeing a wellspring of nope? Maybe it's not about what college basketball is.
Maybe it's about what college basketball should be.
College basketball is back, and life finally makes sense again. Questions like "Where did all my money go?" and "Why am I such a disappointment?" and "How did I end up in this Dumpster?" no longer matter. Nothing matters, actually. Our salvation has arrived, and if you think I'm being overly dramatic, then you can get the HELL out of my Dumpster, pal.
As the headline on this post suggests, I recommend that you all take out the paper calendars you use to help remember when to watch sports (mine is the flip kind with autumnal photos above each month), and find a good, reliable pen, because you'll want to write this down. Below, I've listed the best possible games from each of the next seven days, along with some honorable mentions. Consider this your weeklong immersion guide. And it starts, as it should, in the mecca of the sport …
Five years ago, former USC men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd told the Los Angeles Times he was canceling the Midnight Madness event the team had hosted for the past three years. "I want to go have a real practice and not a carnival atmosphere," he said. “I guess I figure we’re on TV enough, there’s enough other stuff going on in our city now, we don’t need it. We did it, we loved it, I just prefer to have good practices.”
Sure, at the time, the formerly sleepy hamlet of L.A. had been recently enlivened by $1 Taco Nights at Malo on Mondays and a reunited My Bloody Valentine assaulting the Santa Monica Civic Center, but depriving fans of copious Trojan gear giveaways and slam dunk contests seemed harsh.
Since we last spoke, the Andrew Wiggins hype cycle has continued to spin like a possessed electric dryer. There have been more magazine covers and a shirtless spread in GQ. His native country’s national sports network, TSN, has made arrangements to broadcast every Kansas game live throughout Canada, and the start of a new NBA season means the “Riggin' for Wiggins” among the NBA bottom-feeders has begun in earnest. As of Tuesday morning, though, one of the world’s most famous 18-year-olds had not yet accumulated a single statistic for Kansas. It’s not hard to imagine the pressure.
Given that I'm a fourth-generation Jayhawk, it should be no surprise to you that I have no goal, personal or professional, that takes precedent over living long enough to watch this year’s highly anticipated Jayhawks basketball season. To that effect, and in honor of Andrew Wiggins making the cover of Sports Illustrated, I’m making some large life changes to ensure that I’ll be able to view the entire slate of games, which begins October 29 with an exhibition against Pittsburg State. Below, I’ve outlined some of the things I’ll be doing to attain proper mind, body, and spirit; though this regimen applies to the forthcoming, Wiggins-ed out Jayhawks season, you can easily replace the major proper nouns for your own favorite teams or players, unless you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, in which case you should jump off the nearest cliff.
Polvo is a band from Chapel Hill that formed in 1990. After its debut LP, Cor-Crane Secret, it went on to release Today’s Active Lifestyles (on Merge) and Exploded Drawing (on Chicago’s Touch & Go). These were progressive and challenging albums that defined an exploratory, melodically complex variant of artful indie rock defined by unorthodox rhythms, alternately tuned guitars, surrealist langauge, and Middle Eastern drone. It took on a couple of names the band has disavowed — “math rock” or “post rock” among them. After an amicable split, Polvo went on hiatus for 12 years before returning with In Prism in 2009. On October 1, Merge Records will release Siberia, the band’s sixth LP.
When you watch some outrageous Andrew Wiggins YouTube mixtape, you could be forgiven for not wanting to know how the sausage is made. There's all that promise, and all that eye-popping athleticism, all at such a young age. By now, we all know that there is an underbelly to the worlds of high school and college basketball. We know that institutions and money-hungry street agents take advantage of gifted kids who often find themselves in vulnerable situations, financial or otherwise. Maybe you think college kids should get paid. Maybe you think they should consider the scholarship they receive to play sports payment enough. Either way, you know, even when you watch something as glorious as this, that there's a dark side to the dunk montages, heralded AAU teams, and signing days.
It is on this dark side that New York–based filmmaker Ryan Koo trains his camera. With Amateur, a short film about an encounter between a high school basketball star and a street agent, Koo introduces us to a world of incentives and favors being doled out in whispered locker room confabs. Koo is in the process of making a feature film about this world with his next project, the Kickstarter-funded Manchild. That feature, which counts Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss among its backers, is a look at the recruiting of a 13-year-old basketball phenom.
I talked to Koo, whom I met while working at MTV several years ago, about making Amateur; crowd-sourcing his films with Kickstarter; how his subject matter seems especially prescient in light of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit; and the hysteria surrounding young players like Wiggins and Jabari Parker. You can check out Amateur below, and you can check out the Manchild site here, and see how you can help the production.
The chaotic, hooky garage rock John Barrett makes as Bass Drum of Death can sound like a reaction to his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, more than a reflection of it. After all, the Ole Miss college town is widely known as a genteel, artsy, and Faulkner-approved enclave in the Magnolia State, a place everyone with bookish, hermetic, and alcoholic sensibilities threatens to move to at some point. It appeals to culture hounds who love everything about college football except the actual sport, aspiring connoisseurs of Southern literature and/or booze, and people who think Athens, Georgia, is played out and overexposed.
But you think of Ole Miss’s unofficial slogan — “we may not win every game, but we never lose a party” — and you start to see how Barrett can reconcile Bass Drum of Death’s aesthetic with intense Rebel fanhood. I don’t imagine him as a guy rocking khakis and Lacoste finery at a Grove tailgate, choppin’ it up with Hunter, Trotter, Trey, and the rest of his pledge class while making civil conversation with the absurdly attractive and sundress-clad coeds of Ole Miss. Listening to GB City, I pictured someone who crashed the Sigma Chi house after the game to steal its keg, urinate in its kitchen and hit on Kappa Alpha Theta’s social chair. One side is Oxford at 11 a.m., the other is Oxford at 11 p.m.
These are exciting times for Barrett as both a musician and an Ole Miss diehard. His self-titled second LP was released in June on Innovative Leisure and, apparently, Andre 3000 is a fan. Moreover, the Rebels are making actual headlines over the summer, not just the typical ones where Andy Kennedy or whoever’s coaching the football team is featured in some “hot seat” survey. Marshall Henderson became one of the 2013 NCAA tournament’s breakout personalities, conjuring a wildly hilarious alchemy of Nick Young’s volume shooting, Johnny Manziel’s online persona, and J.R. Smith’s taste for the nightlife. The top three groupings of Henderson on Google Images are “party,” “high school,” and “douche.” To the surprise of no one, Henderson was suspended last week for the thing that the Marshall Hendersons of the world get suspended for, i.e., “violation of team rules.” Meanwhile, the Rebel football team is coming off a ridiculously surprising 7-6 season that led into a ridiculously successful recruiting class that included no. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche.
Barrett took the time to answer our questions regarding the controversial Henderson’s recent suspension, the expectations for the Rebel football team, and Oxford’s justifiable discomfort in the midst of all this positivity.
Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons talk to NBA draft prospect Ben McClemore about the comparisons to Ray Allen, his struggles with poverty, and his reputation for having trouble asserting himself. Check out a short clip below, followed by Brett Koremenos’s scouting report and the full-length video. Watch all the NBA Job Interviews here. And watch this space for more NBA Job Interview videos, featuring Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose, and some of the best young talents from the 2013 NBA draft class.
There may come a time when you walk into a seven-figure job interview with as much leverage as Eddie Jordan did upon meeting with the Rutgers athletic department. But I seriously, seriously doubt it. For starters, wanting the Rutgers men's basketball job makes you a prime candidate for the position, considering the team’s legacy over the past two decades boils down to Quincy Douby, failing to make the NCAA tournament every single year since 1991, and, unlike Northwestern, failing to produce enough sportswriters to make a huge deal about that streak.