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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Time for Tyrus to go...

Since I often give unwanted _ and unwarranted _ advice, let me be one of the first to give LSU's precocious freshman forward Tyrus Thomas some much-needed guidance: find yourself a reputable agent, a demanding trainer and an honest financial adviser.

Do this as soon as you play your final game of the season with the Tigers, whether that's Saturday after a semifinal loss to UCLA or (as many anxious Louisianans hope and pray) Monday after a title-game celebration that would make even "Girls Gone Wild" mastermind Joe Francis blush.

Do this as quickly as you would swat away an overmatched psychology major's awkward set shot.

Do this as fast as you would swoop in for a dunk over a cowering mid-major walk-on.

Resist the urge to buy a Maybach and settle for an Escalade.

Why, you might foolishly ask?

Dozens of cautionary tales come to mind, but I'll name just three in the interest of brevity: Terence Morris, Wayne Simien and Daniel Gibson.

The latter name is familiar to anyone who watched the Tigers push around the highly overrated Longhorns last Saturday, with the help of a MVP performance from Thomas.

Gibson is a sophomore guard for Texas, a one-time favorite of NBA scouts and analysts and now a guy who could use a burnt-orange life preserver to salvage his sinking draft status.

Last year, Gibson seemed a sure bet to end up in the lottery or at least the mid-first round of the NBA draft following a solid, but not spectacular, freshman season in Austin. But swayed by the advice of overzealous alums and the prospect of playing for a national champion the next year, Gibson stuck around for another season.

Bad move, and I'm not talking a failed crossover: he struggled so badly at point guard that his coach moved him to shooting guard, and saw a marked decrease in all the major statistics _ points, assists, shooting percentage and steals.

He has two years to salvage his stock, but as an undersized shooting guard who doesn't shoot particularly well, and a point guard who can't lead an offense, it's tough to see how he'll ever be considered an elite prospect again.

The second guy, Simien, was a 29th overall pick of the Miami Heat in the most recent draft, which is about, oh, 15-20 spots later than he would have been taken had he left Kansas two years earlier.

He did everything a blue-chip recruit could do: was the Big 12 player of the year as a senior, led the Jayhawks to two Final Fours and three conference titles and even graduated with a degree in sociology.

All that got Simien was rare maturity among NBA rookies, a rep for being injury prone and an especially nerve-wracking draft-night party. Had he been chosen two picks later, Simien wouldn't have even gotten the guaranteed contract given to first-rounders.

The first guy mentioned, Morris, only a few people will remember unless they're especially rabid college hoops fans, a Maryland alum or a season-ticket holder for Apollon Patras of Greece. Morris was the Tyrus Thomas of his day, way back in 1999. He was a 6-foot-9 sophomore jumping jack, the kind of gifted, raw athlete that NBA GMs imagined being the Scottie Pippen to their Jerry Krause.

Paired with Steve Francis on Maryland's Elite Eight squad, Morris seem all but assured a photo op shaking hands with David Stern on draft night. But for some inexplicable reason, Morris returned to Maryland for his final two years, ruining his draft profile to the point that he was only a second-round pick in 2001. NBA teams had fallen out of love with him.

He played two seasons with the Houston Rockets, spent a season in the D-League, went to Greece for a year and had a cup of coffee with the Orlando Magic last year. His whereabouts this year are unknown.

I can only imagine, though, what Morris sees when he watches the NCAA tournament from wherever he lives these days and checks out young Tyrus Thomas.

He probably sees an especially haunting ghost: an emerging 6-9 star with unmatched athleticism for college, a guy that some are already projecting as the top pick in the 2006 draft.

A guy that with some NBA seasoning and the security of first-round money _ and, thus, the team's lasting investment _ could someday live up to those extremely premature comparisons to Shawn Marion.

In fact, forget what I'd say. I wonder what Terence Morris would tell Tyrus.

7 Comments:

Blogger mart112 said...

Thomas is nice, but so was Stromile when he was running at LSU, and look what he has done in the League. He is about one more turnover away from Van Gundy sending him to the D-League. Thomas needs to develop an outside game, ball skills and a back to the basket approach to take advantage of smaller wing players in the League. Right now, he can run and jump, but so can everybody else he will be going up against at the next level. If he develops all of those previously mentioned skills, I think he has a shot at being Shawn Marion like. If not, he is another Stromile Swift waiting to happen.

And is it just me, or is it not very predictable conclusion that "Big Baby" is going to eat his way out of his playing career. Dudes don't go to the NBA and get in better shape, they get more rolls. He is going to have a pocket full of cash and instead of eating a somewhat healthy training table meal, he is going to be shoving quarter pounders with cheese down his grill like they have a creme filling. Too bad you can't somehow transport Davis' skills on to Thomas' body.

6:08 PM  
Blogger mart112 said...

Thomas is nice, but so was Stromile when he was running at LSU, and look what he has done in the League. He is about one more turnover away from Van Gundy sending him to the D-League. Thomas needs to develop an outside game, ball skills and a back to the basket approach to take advantage of smaller wing players in the League. Right now, he can run and jump, but so can everybody else he will be going up against at the next level. If he develops all of those previously mentioned skills, I think he has a shot at being Shawn Marion like. If not, he is another Stromile Swift waiting to happen.

And is it just me, or is it not very predictable conclusion that "Big Baby" is going to eat his way out of his playing career. Dudes don't go to the NBA and get in better shape, they get more rolls. He is going to have a pocket full of cash and instead of eating a somewhat healthy training table meal, he is going to be shoving quarter pounders with cheese down his grill like they have a creme filling. Too bad you can't somehow transport Davis' skills on to Thomas' body.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Brian McCallum said...

I never understood the thought that Stromile Swift was going to be a star in the NBA, but that's just me.
As for Big Baby and his rolls, that can't always be predicted. Karl Malone went the other direction, turning himself into a near bodybuilder after playing with some babyfat in college. It's all about the player's desire.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Brian McCallum said...

But as for Thomas, I don't see him being anything like Stromile. A strong wind won't break him in half. I see him as being more physical, which is what the NBA requires.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Joel Anderson said...

I agree with Brian, but with a serious caveat: Thomas is nowhere near worthy of a top-5 pick in the league.
At least right now.
That might seem contradictory, but I truly believe in cashing in when your draft stock is as high as it will get.
Thomas will rarely receive a bigger buzz, and without steady improvement could be exposed over the next few years.
With Big Baby drawing much of the defensive attention, Thomas can thrive against just one defender. And on defense, he can freelance from the weakside to make those highlight blocks.
Assuming Big Baby makes the NBA leap (and he probably should, too), Thomas would have to go it alone. That means more double-teams, more defensive responsibility and possibly a weaker backcourt with the graduation of Darrel Mitchell.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Blair Rowell said...

I don't know.
There's something to be said for getting a college degree.
Are you against education or something?

12:44 AM  
Blogger mart112 said...

Blair, are you serious? A college degree? You go to college to learn how to make money. If a guy like Tyrus or anyone else has the opportunity to go pro and make millions, why should he stay in school to get a degree? Why can he not go back and get a degree when he is done playing? It is extremely naive to think that these athletes are in school to get a degree, they are there to play ball and hopefully make it to the NBA.

4:12 PM  

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