UConn and St. Joe’s was the first game I saw this March Madness. It was love at first sight.
In my first March Madness since college, I’ve loved the games, I’ve loved the commercials, I’ve loved the commentary. But the very best? The seasoned teams, the ones with seniors who have stayed the course. And the marination of anticipation over the years – of playing through March and being the only team to finish the season with a win.
As the Wisconsin/Kentucky game got going on Saturday night, my Dad and I got into a conversation about one and done. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a phrase that has become connected to John Calipari and the University of Kentucky program, a team that starts five talented Freshman. One and done refers to those student-athletes who come to school for a year before they choose to leave school in favor of the NBA. Calipari will have had 20 such players on his team in the five years by the close of this year’s NBA draft (he has 17 to date).
Both of us were rooting for Wisconsin, a team with some season. But when I Google’ed one and done, I came across this article that is very much worth a read.
As a college basketball fan, I don’t want to see great players leave so quickly. Heck, in my college basketball watching heyday, I didn’t want to see the seniors go. But why is the choice for college basketball players, whether they stay or they go, come under more scrutiny than anyone else with a chance, a choice to pursue an opportunity that might change their life and the lives of their families?
As much as I wish my writing tonight was all about UConn and how great Kevin Ollie is as a coach, I really like what Coach Calipari has done as a leader – and how he’s attempting to change a conversation.
One a done leaves a bad taste in peoples mouth. But succeed and proceed, not only does it have a nice ring, it gets closer to the core of what’s behind these shortened sojourns at the college level for these ball players.
The article paints Calipari as a great recruiter, a great coach, and a great teacher. I agree with the idea that to proceed one must succeed. To continue on to the next level, one must have achieved.
But the part I love even more is that Calipari’s players support the idea that he makes no promises to them. That his attitude and coaching style invites them to grow up – and they have the choice to step up to that challenge.
Basketball, in some ways is just a game. But in other ways it’s a platform for learning transformative lessons. Of dedication and hard work. Focus and concentration. Sharing and teamwork. Looking out for others. And more.
Who are we to judge when someone has learned the lesson? And whether or not they should have the opportunity to pursue a dream to ‘play’ at the next level?
In an age where we say yes to kid entrepreneurs, how are these basketball players any different?
Coach Calipari, I’m not rooting for your team tonight, but I do have a little extra respect and appreciation for your craft and your coaching style. Thank you for helping me to think a little bit differently about this conversation.