Thursday, June 30, 2005

Gilchrist Parting Shots

You could view John Gilchrist's career at Maryland as either a cautionary tale or a symbol of the current zeitgeist in college basketball. As sixty different names ticked off the board in last Tuesday's NBA draft Gilchrist's was not among them. Undrafted free agent. Hardly what Gilchrist or any of his supporters could have imagined after 2004's stirring ACC Championship and a MVP award. It turned out that was the zenith of his basketball career and he has since found out that you can't base a reputation on one weekend of determined play. In spite of what some considered a decent showing at the pre-draft Chicago camp NBA GMs decided that the body of Gilchrist's basketball career showed more potential for headaches than for highlights. For any person not a raging narcissist it would be a humbling experience, but not for a young man who proclaimed himself as good as Chris Paul after a blowout loss to Wake Forest a game in which he began and ended sitting on the bench.

According to his agent Joel Bell, who seems as deluded as his client, Gilchrist was "puzzled" and found it "laughable" that players such as Daniel Ewing and Travis Diener were drafted while he wasn't. Well, Ewing and Diener will be laughing on the way to the bank. It may be vaguely amusing and even pitiable to consider his reaction to such a clear rebuke of his version of his disastrous junior season. His immature, petty and utterly bizarre interview with the Washington Post was likely the thing that ended any hope of hearing his named called on Tuesday. Ironically he likely felt the interview would "clear the air" over his feuding with Gary Williams and his inconsistent play.

His play in the 2004 ACC tournament was transcendent and probably one of the more memorable individual performances in league history, but he didn't do it alone. Senior Jamar Smith and junior Travis Garrison also played at a much higher level than during the regular season. Typical of Gilchrist he had no interest in recognizing that fact, when the team wins it was because of his play, his hard work, but when the team lost it was because someone else let him down. Much like Duane Simpkins and Exree Hipp before him Gilchrist got some horrible advice from sychophants and morons who had no clue what NBA GMs really thought of his skills. Chris Paul and Raymond Felton both led their teams to splendid seasons, though Paul did taint himself with his crotch punch of Julius Hodge. Jarret Jack endured a rocky season in which some teammates underachieved and others could not stay healthy, yet he never took cheap shots in the press at any of them. Gilchrist couldn't summon the dignity and character to do the same.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of this sad tale is that Gilchrist is not alone in this wallow of self absorbed college athletes. He was not alone in the miscalculation of his true talent as two duos from different SEC schools followed him into obscurity. At least Gilchrist had the excuse that he had burned all his bridges and wasn't wanted back by his college coach. Matt Walsh, Anthony Roberson, Randolph Morris and Kelenna Azubuike all look like Whiley Coyote after the dynamite blows up in his face. Morris and Azubuike would have returned to a loaded Kentucky team that could have contended for a national title. Think Felton and May would have gone in the first round without Carolina's march to St. Louis? Not likely. In a way it isn't surprising that young stars today, raised in the cesspool of the AAU circuit, would consider team accomplishments and individual glory to be unrelated. They may learn how to be a playa' but they don't know what it means to be a winner. Given that only one out of four players who are drafted in the 2nd round ever play in the NBA Gilchrist's odds seem very long indeed. Maybe some of his former teammates will learn from his painful lesson.

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