Saturday, June 28, 2014

College Basketball Better Than The Pros

So I just noticed the National Basketball Association's Player Draft is going on right now.  I'm not much of a fan of the NBA.  Professional basketball is such a different game than college basketball, and I never had much interest in it.  College basketball was just so exciting.  It seemed like the players at the college level had to try harder, and were so much more fun to watch, compared to the pros, who made the game look effortless, and, hence, uninteresting to me.  It probably didn't help that the Washington team, called the Bullets while I was growing up, now the Wizards, were never very good, and Pittsburgh, where all of the professional sports teams that I was a fan of were located, didn't have an NBA team.  So I just didn't care for the NBA.

Since Maryland was my home state, I began to follow the Terrapins, and they always seemed to be pretty good.  Lefty Driesell was their coach, and I loved watching the games.  As I got older, I became a huge fan of possibly one of the greatest players ever to play the game:  Len Bias.  There have been many comparisons made between Bias and the great Michael Jordan, and they were contemporaries.  Bias was a greater physical specimen, in my mind, even if Jordan had more talent.  Bias helped lead the Terps to an ACC Championship in 1984.  He was a first team all-american in 1986, and first team all-ACC in '85 and '86.  He was the 2nd player chosen in the '86 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, but two days later, he died from a cocaine overdose.  It was a senseless tragedy.  His death led to the basketball program falling apart, with the resignation of Lefty Driesell occurring soon after.  The school brought in Bob Wade, a Baltimore high school coach, who took the program down even further with a series of rules violations that ultimately led to the university being placed on probation for three seasons and banned from the postseason for two.

I began attending the University of Maryland in 1987, in Bob Wade's first season.  His first season was really bad, and it bothered me that they could be so bad during my time as a student there.  His third season was even worse, and amid the rules violations, he was fired.  Gary Williams was brought in the following season to much excitement, but the probation that was handed down by the NCAA kept the basketball team from making any strides for a few more years.  Gary really turned things around, however, and brought the program back into the limelight.  He ran a squeaky clean program, and his underdog personality was adopted by the players that played for him.  Eventually, the team had it's greatest success by going to the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2001, and they won the National Championship in 2002.  I remember watching the game with my wife and how excited we were.  It was an awesome feeling.

The Terps haven't been able to return to that level of success since they won their championship.  Gary Williams retired several years ago, and current coach, Mark Turgeon, though likable and successful with other programs, hasn't been able to get the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament since taking over as coach.  I still love watching them, and will root them on to success, but I miss the excitement that seemed to surround them under Williams.

I still love the college game so much more than the pros.  The draft holds no interest for me.  I'll take it a step even further and state that I enjoy Women's college basketball more than the pros.  I love going to see them live, something that my buddy and I used to do throughout the 90s at old Cole Field House (mostly because we couldn't get tickets for the Men's games), and now I take my daughter to see the Lady Terps play.  It's a blast!

So my advice is to stay away from the pros.  They're getting paid a lot of money and they almost seem disinterested at times while they're playing.  That's just my opinion.  The college players seem to play with heart.  It's exciting!

Have a great evening, everyone!

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