Sports

John Clay: One and well done to Cats

Hindsight always being clear-eyed, we should have seen it from the opening tip.

You would have to be a crazy man to admit a one-and-done player into your college basketball program, considering that only graybeards end up hoisting the trophy when the band strikes up One Shining Moment on national championship night.

What self-respecting basketball fan would want to spend a year watching John Wall go coast-to-coast faster than it takes Curtis Shaw to call a technical foul?

Who would want DeMarcus Cousins bringing those tiresome double-doubles night after night after night?

Who wants to pick their jaw up off the floor after watching Eric Bledsoe toss in some gravity-defying shot?

Those are one-and-doners, after all, now college basketball's official pariahs. See, one-and-doners aren't team players. They care more about the NBA than the NCAA. Bottom line, one-and-doners don't win.

After all, playing with at least three one-and-doners, Kentucky won only 35 basketball games this season.

And lost three.

I know, the Cats didn't win it all. The Cats didn't even reach the Final Four. And, yes, study the foursome that takes to the hardwood Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and you'll find not one one-and-doner.

Among its top five scorers, Butler boasts a senior, a junior and three sophomores. Excluding the injured Kalin Lucas, Michigan State has two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. Excluding the injured Truck Bryant, West Virginia has two seniors, a junior and two sophomores. Duke has two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.

In fact, you must go back to North Carolina 2005 to find a national champion with a freshman among its top five scorers. Marvin Williams was that young Heel. He wasn't even a starter, though Williams was one-and-done.

Before that, you have to go back to Syracuse 2003 and Carmelo Anthony for a one-and-doner who actually started on a title team.

So yes, 2010 turned out to be the year for team basketball, not professional-ready basketball. Neither nbadraft.net nor draftexpress.com lists a single Final Four player as a lottery pick. West Virginia's Devin Ebanks, a sophomore, is the highest-rated — 17th by nbadraft.net.

There are some misconceptions about this whole one-and-done thing, however.

The way the John Calipari critics are spinning it, you would think the coach has done nothing his entire career but cater to high school prospects who can't wait to climb aboard an NBA team plane.

Fact is, in his nine Memphis years, Calipari produced just four one-and-doners — Dajuan Wagner in 2002, Shawne Williams in 2006, Derrick Rose in 2008 and Tyreke Evans in 2009. He never had more than one in a season.

The other national misconception — motto: we've seen them less; but yet we somehow know more — is that Kentucky's "mercenaries" were unmanageable, that they dissolved into squabbles and spats, that the star-power solo acts never sacrificed for the common good.

Those must have been well-hidden. All I saw was a team that appeared to get along famously, that had fun, that won an SEC regular-season title, an SEC Tournament title, was ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

All I saw was a team that won 35 games.

To be sure, the ultimate goal involves hooks and a banner. For Kentucky's storied program, any ending short of a Final Four is not a happy ending.

But a year of watching the talents of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton is not a bad consolation prize.

I'll take one-and-done over one-and-none.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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