The University of Oregon men’s basketball program had a lousy night on Thursday.
Five-star recruit Bol Bol wasted away in the NBA draft green room, free-falling to the No. 44 overall pick. Fellow Oregon freshman Louis King went completely undrafted. And Kenny Wooten was not really on anyone’s mind.
It was an early-entry draft nightmare for UO. Three strikeouts, two of them looking. And in the end, a sobering night is exactly what this over-hyped era of Ducks basketball needed.
Can this one-and-done thing … be done now?
None of what happened was good for the Oregon men’s basketball brand. It was not at all like watching three Duke players picked in the top 10. Dana Altman’s program will not be able to use a frame of draft-night footage to help recruit more one-and-done players. But man, I was conflicted as I watched Bol sit as long-faced as an elementary-school kid picked last for the kickball team.
I felt a little sorry for him.
Maybe you did, too.
But also I wondered if this would act as a deterrent to the line of selfish players interested only in coming to Oregon to suck up resources and fast-track their careers.
NBA general managers tried to tell us something on Thursday. They did not buy the five-star hype. Not nearly enough to waste a valued pick on any of it.
Those are not words the UO athletic-department marketing machine will put on a billboard or launch a social media campaign with. But those were the exact words NBA front-office executives texted to me when I asked why the Ducks’ most athletic players were not coveted on Thursday.
It stinks. Oregon lost three players it heavily invested in. The three young players lost their college eligibility. And in Eugene, the Ducks currently have only eight available scholarship players for next season.
There is bound to be discussion now about changing the NBA/NCAA system. There will be cries to change rules and allow undrafted players to return to college. Save your brain bandwidth. The problem is not a bad rule. The issue is a broken mentality fostered in the minds of entitled players.
Don’t cry for Bol and Co. None of them has ever treated any of their stops — high school to club basketball to college — as anything more than a rag to be wrung dry and tossed aside.
The sad part was not the wake-up call. It should have come long ago.
Bol attended four high schools in three states. In front of the draft, NBA scouts were dispatched in Bol’s case not just to Oregon, where he played nine college games to get intel, but to Kansas, Nevada and California to talk with his former prep teachers and coaches.
When you never unpack your bags, who really knows you? With so many questions, who vouches for you?
I kept asking NBA sources on Thursday night, “Why is Bol in this free fall?”
Was he about to be indicted or something? Bad medicals? What?
The answer came from one NBA scout: “John, there was no smoking gun.”
Entitled. Over-hyped. Frail.
Those words were enough, turns out, to keep NBA teams away. They should have also kept the Ducks away. Turns out NBA first-round picks are valuable assets, even in a thin draft.
I will spin this positive for Oregon. UO might walk out of a real downer of a Thursday night and somehow find a sneaky-good win. The Ducks will be without Bol, King and Wooten next season. That hurts. The programs that recruit against UO had to love it. That also hurts. But all this might actually be an encouraging development for Oregon basketball in the long term.
The Ducks need to shut down the one-and-done hype machine.
I suspect the best, over-hyped, most entitled players will not want anything to do with UO right now.
That is not a bad thing.
Oregon needs to get back to recruiting and developing good players who want to develop into great ones. Thursday night can spark an awakening for Altman’s program. It’s time to sober up. No more one-and-done head cases. They are just not worth the effort. Instead, recruit the best players who also know they need to stay in college for a few seasons and grow.
Thursday night stunk for Bol and friends. But the way I see it, the NBA did Oregon a favor by demonstrating that its three most gifted draft-eligible players were not wanted.
When Bol was finally picked in the second round by Miami, then traded to Denver, he gave a sullen and sad interview on national television. He was understandably bummed. It was just months ago that he was touted as a potential top-five pick.
When Bol was asked what kind of player he could be in the NBA, he gave the quote of draft night.
He said: “You guys seen it on YouTube.”
Not really, kid.