UK notebook: Bowie wouldn't trade his UK experience

Herald-Leader Staff WriterDecember 22, 2012 

Kentucky basketball player Sam Bowie sat out the 1981-82 season with a leg injury. One of the most heralded high school prospects of the time, injuries not only shortened his college career but limited his NBA career as well.

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Former Kentucky star Sam Bowie has a unique perspective on the so-called one-and-done player. He's been on both sides: the would-be early entrant into the NBA Draft and the fifth-year senior.

At Monday's preview showing of the ESPN documentary of his basketball life, Bowie said it was a "mortal lock" that he planned to leave UK after his sophomore season. Of course, the most famous stress fracture in UK basketball history derailed those plans. That pain in the leg sidelined Bowie for two seasons and all but mandated that he play as a fifth-year senior to show NBA scouts he was healthy.

So who better to ask about the concept of one-and-done players and the education-versus-monetary wealth tightrope they walk?

"You go to college to learn a trade," Bowie said. "Not to belittle education, by any means. But the reality is somebody will give you $10 million. That is your degree."

Bowie acknowledged his mixed feelings about the trade made by one-and-done players: sacrificing the college experience for financial riches.

Of the five years he spent at UK, Bowie said, "You couldn't give me $20 million to change that."

A moment later, he said of the stress fracture, "On the flip side, it could have been a disaster for me."

The stress fracture in his left shin nearly killed Bowie's long-held dream of being an NBA player and, thus, a millionaire. As a highly regarded prospect in the late 1970s, he signed more than a few autographs as "the Million Dollar Kid." He also went by the nickname "the Gold Mine."

Bowie described himself then as "a spoiled 18-year-old kid who thought he was better than sliced bread."

Of the hype that surrounded a high school basketball player more than 30 years ago, he said, "At 18, you get caught up in that." He thanked then-UK coach Joe B. Hall for making him realize he had improvement to make.

Bowie also saluted UK Coach John Calipari for unabashedly promoting the program as a means for making NBA dreams come true ... as quickly as possible.

If the process takes one year or, as in Bowie's case, five years, the former UK player offered advice to present and future college players:

"Enjoy the moment."

Assists

After UK beat Lipscomb, Ryan Harrow complained — good-naturedly — about his assist total. Normally, he wouldn't bother looking at his statistics, he said, but he felt he'd been shortchanged the week earlier against Portland.

Tom Smith shrugged.

Smith, a former UK team manager and now a certified public accountant, has been a member of the Rupp Arena stats crew for more than 30 years. He's been responsible for assists for more than 10 years.

Harrow isn't the first UK point guard to feel he deserved more assists. Rajon Rondo once suggested to the stats crew that he'd raise an arm each time he felt he had made an assist.

Though no doubt appreciating Rondo's willingness to help, Smith continued to keep his own counsel.

The "assist" might be the most subjective of basketball statistics. One person's assist is another person's ball movement.

"It's not an exact science," Smith said.

The NCAA manual is vague. An assist is a pass that leads to a basket. But there's no requirement that the player receiving the pass shoot immediately.

If a foul prevents the shooter from scoring, there's no assist.

Because a stats crew compiles the numbers for both teams, Smith keeps track of any difference in assists for a player in home and away games. Usually, the difference is negligible,

As for Harrow, Smith said, "I think he's a nice player, and it looks like he's really improving."

'Lot of mediocrity'

ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla described the SEC as "four quality teams and a whole lot of mediocrity at the bottom."

Win-loss records say it's a down year for the SEC. Or at the very least, the league is off to a poor start this season.

SEC teams had a 0-9 record against teams in The Associated Press Top 25 last week.

Against all schools in the so-called BCS conferences, the SEC had an 11-27 record.

The SEC is 2-10 against teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the games. Those victories were posted by Florida (over then-No. 22 Wisconsin) and Tennessee (over then-No. 23 Wichita State).

As Kentucky Coach John Calipari might say, "Take that however you want ..."

Moneyball

As friends, family and selected K Fund donors gathered for a preview showing of the ESPN documentary Going Big last week, Sam Bowie and former UK radio play-by-play man Ralph Hacker recalled the inside joke they shared as broadcast partners.

"We may not be the best (announcing tandem)," one might say to the other, "but we're the richest."

'Going Big'

Leftovers from the preview of the documentary on Sam Bowie titled, Going Big:

While much attention was paid to Bowie not telling the Portland Trail Blazers medical staff about pain in his leg during a pre-draft physical exam, he noted the other end of the NBA career. He turned down then-LA Lakers GM Jerry West's offer to play about 20 minutes a game as Shaquille O'Neal's backup.

"Physically and mentally, I don't have it anymore," Bowie recalled telling West. " ... To this day, Jerry West knows I'm an honest guy."

Attention-getting factoid: The documentary notes that as NBA players Michael Jordan had to deal with an injury (sprained ankle) before Bowie.

For months, Bowie resisted ESPN's request for cooperation in the documentary. He feared ESPN would dwell on how the Trail Blazers took him rather than Jordan in the 1984 draft.

So what changed his mind?

"My kids," Bowie said. "I thought it might be a good opportunity for them to see where their dad came from."

Right and wrong

Tracy Arflin, a seventh-grade math teacher at Bluegrass Middle School, saw something that doesn't add up. He noted how Morehead State Coach Sean Woods was criticized for saying he saw a "sense of entitlement" among UK players. However, since then, no outcry came when several people, including John Calipari, made similar comments.

"Help me understand something," Arflin wrote in an email message. " ... Everybody and his brother gave Sean Woods down the road when he questioned the mindset of the current crop of Cats. (Woods) questioned their hearts and intensity.

"Yet Cal has said virtually the same thing about the team since then and we all accept it. Maybe Woods shouldn't have been vilified so much and been listened to a little more. Perhaps his only sin was in being the first to see what now is accepted as the obvious. I'm just saying. ..."

In a follow-up email, Arflin said Woods had the misfortune of being first to point out what has come to be accepted as possibly true.

"I'm afraid a lot of sports fans react negatively to any perceived 'dis' of their team ... even if it only reflects the truth," he wrote.

"Oh, and I like our chances in March if this team decides to listen to Cal and grow up some."

Arflin, 53, has been a UK basketball fan "since I've known the difference between right and wrong."

Saluting 75 years

CBS plans a series of specials to commemorate the 75 years of the NCAA Tournament in 2013. The first of these specials will air back to back as lead-in programming to the Kentucky-Louisville game on Saturday.

From 2 to 3 p.m. that day, CBS will air what it calls 75 Years: Behind the Mic. Announcers who have worked telecasts of the NCAA Tournament will recall memories.

This trip down memory lane will include Verne Lundquist, Len Elmore and Christian Laettner recalling the epic 1992 Kentucky-Duke game in the East Region finals. Of course, Laettner won it with a buzzer-beating shot in overtime.

From 3 to 4 p.m., CBS will air what it calls 75 Years: A Coach's Perspective. On this show, college coaches will recall NCAA Tournament memories. Coaches participating are U of L's Rick Pitino, Florida's Billy Donovan, Villanova's Jay Wright, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Georgetown's John Thompson III, Butler's Brad Stevens, Kansas' Bill Self, VCU's Shaka Smart and St. John's Steve Lavin.

The UK-U of L game is scheduled to tip off a few minutes after 4 p.m.

Guru of all

Jabari Parker and his family cited Mike Krzyzewski as a key factor in the highly regarded prospect committing to Duke over Michigan State and Florida.

"He's Coach K," Parker said to The Detroit News. "The guru of all basketball, and I think he knows a lot. He comes from a prestigious background. He gave me a lot of insight."

Krzyzewski also made a big impression on the player's mother, Lola Parker.

"I'm tough, to be honest with you," she said. "I am not a fan of basketball. I'm a fan of people. I think character is everything and I don't hear anything negative about Coach K in my research."

Cheer

That rare chance to set a tip-off time without any considerations for TV led Georgia to begin its game Tuesday against Mercer at 11:30 a.m. Georgia invited school children in grades two through five from Clarke County schools to attend.

The children, who were provided a ticket and lunch, made for a festive atmosphere.

Georgia also made the game a "businessfan's special" in which adults were provided a tongue-in-cheek list of reasons to miss work for the game. Reasons included "basketball fever" and "hoops hysteria."

Georgia, which beat Mercer 58-49, had its largest home crowd of the season: 8,650. In its previous five home games, Georgia had an average attendance of 4,715.

Honorary title

Reader John Swope of Irwin, Pa., sent a question which syndicated columnist Norman Chad used last week.

"Does hearing Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe refer to Bill Cowher as 'Coach' remind you of the 'Seinfeld' episode with the 'Maestro?'" he asked.

Happy birthday

To former Georgia Coach Ron Jirsa. Again a Tubby Smith assistant, now at Minnesota, he turned 53 on Friday. ... To former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He turns 53 today. ... To former UK point guard Cliff Hawkins. He turns 31 on Christmas Eve. ... To former South Carolina and Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn. He turns 40 on Christmas Eve. ... To former UK center Rodney Dent. He turns 42 on Christmas. ... To former UK point guard Roger Harden. He turned 49 on Wednesday. ... To former UK player Eric Manuel. He turned 45 on Friday.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227.Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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