Guest Column

‘One-and-dones’ are done

April 11, 2014 

Perhaps it is poetic justice that some of the highest profile teams that touted their “one and done” players this year exited early from the NCAA basketball tournament.

Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse have declared themselves eligible for the NBA draft. Duke’s Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker have discussed following suit.

And it is fitting that Kentucky started five freshmen last Monday, while UConn was dominated by veteran players, many of whom stayed with the team even after the coach who recruited them was forced out by health problems.

It is ironic that during the play-by-play and pre- and post-game commentaries how many of the “talking heads” around NCAA basketball discussed the value of experienced players and the importance of using team-oriented offenses and defenses.

Several commentators noted how difficult, with so many freshmen playing important roles, it is for a group of young men to bond together to play a team game at the highest level.

Over the past 60 years, I have enjoyed the game as a spectator, player, coach and parent of basketball players.

My enthusiasm for the game of basketball began in the early 1950s growing up in Huntington, W.Va., the home of Marshall College. Cam Henderson, its legendary coach, created the three-man fast break offense, and my high school coach, Jim Lamb, was one of his former players. We were taught the game the way James Naismith coached.

I wonder how the creator of basketball and his students – Phog Allen, Hank Iba, Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith — would evaluate today’s top basketball programs.

Unfortunately the philosophies and coaching styles of the legends have become over shadowed by an incessant chorus of tributes and adulations directed to individual player performances presented during ESPN’s Sport Center and many, many other sports talk shows.

College presidents and athletic directors of our institutions of “higher learning” have allowed their basketball programs to succumb to the survival of the “elitist” mentality.

Watching today’s version of the game is quite disheartening.

Naismith’s purpose in creating this wonderful sporting event was not only to design a physical education activity for the YMCA and for his college students, but also to provide a character-building, team oriented athletic experience.

In the land of Dean Smith, one of the great “students of the game,” we should take a stand for what is truly right and just about the game of basketball.

I for one would like to see college sports return to the values of healthy physical activity that is character building and team oriented.

John Aluise is a longtime basketball coach and enthusiast, perhaps best known to local readers as organizer of the Knights of Columbus annual Free Throw Shooting Contest.

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