I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but I think Julian Wright is doing the right thing by entering the NBA draft. A selfish part of me (the KU grad and college basketball fan) wants him to stay in school, but a look at his rationale shows he’s actually thought this through. He’s not believing his own hype and saying he’ll go in the top five, he’s realistically stating that he needs work, but would rather do his growing in the pros.
Some encouraging quotes from the press conference:
- “I feel like I’m in a position now where I can develop, I’m not saying I’m going to be the next LeBron James or an impact player right away. I know it’s a long work in process.” – Wright
- “He’d be the first to agree that there are some things he needs to get better at. But I don’t know how many 19-year-olds or 20-year-olds don’t have to get better at something. He’ll work hard to do that.” – Coach Bill Self
- “I know it’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, especially in the first year, or the second, or maybe the third. I’m ready for that. I’m not ready for actual playing right now. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do.” – Wright
- “Money has never been my motivation. It’s not my family’s [motivation]. Mostly, just playing and feeling like I’m able to advance my game to the next level. It’s not about the money. I’m just happy and grateful to have the opportunity.” – Wright
Now, I wasn’t born yesterday and I don’t believe that last one in toto. Wright and his Jayhawk mate Brandon Rush are probably kicking themselves for not coming out last year, when they could have gone in the top ten. This year’s draft is much deeper, and the two sophomores probably follow the falling dominoes down into the double digits. If they really have their heads on straight, that won’t be a problem – they’ll play for better teams, under less scrutiny, and still be rich beyond their wildest dreams.
As much as it galls me to say it, I’m not sure Bill Self is the guy to teach either of these world-class athletes how to best use their talents. I don’t have any inside knowledge, so I have nothing to back those words up with, but results speak for themselves. Despite super-talented teams, Bill Self can’t get to the Final Four. It took Roy Williams a while to win big at Kansas, but he was able to go from a probation-wracked 19-12 in 1989 to National runner-up just two years later. He made it that far with Mark Randall as his most talented player – that’s a good coach.
I hope I’m wrong about Bill Self. I hope he’s making adjustments and will throw this in my face next year. But right now, it’s probably time for these talented sophs to make the leap.