Recently I had a chance to interview Clark Kellogg over the phone. It was set up by a PR team in conjunction with promoting the Capital One Cup, which is a new award to be given out to the top men’s and women’s collegiate athletic programs (you’ve likely seen commercials about this on ESPN).
Points for the Cup will be accumulated according to how schools fare across 13 tiered men’s and women’s Division I sports programs (Men’s: Tier 1 – football, basketball, and baseball; T2 – soccer, swimming & diving, outdoor track & field, and lacrosse; T3 – cross country, wrestling, ice hockey, indoor track & field, golf, and tennis; Women’s: Tier 1: volleyball, basketball, and softball; T2; soccer, swimming & diving, outdoor track & field, and lacrosse; T3: cross country, field hockey, indoor track & field, golf, tennis, and rowing — Tier 1 sports are worth three times the points, Tier 2 sports are worth two times, and Tier 3 sports are worth their actual point number. Sports are tiered to “reward success in sports with the most student athlete participation and fan interest.”).
Schools with the most cumulative points across all men’s and women’s sports will each be presented with a trophy, $200,000 to fund student-athlete graduate-level scholarships, and will be honored at the ESPY Awards held in July. Top 10 finishers for men’s and women’s sports cumulative point totals will also each be recognized.
Kellogg was selected by Capital One to be an advisory board member for the award along with Doug Flutie, Brandi Chastain, Lisa Leslie, Robin Ventura and Rece Davis.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why would a Wizards blogger want to interview Clark Kellogg?’
Well, I’ll clearly tell you. One, it’s Clark Kellogg — he’s ‘the’ guy behind college basketball television broadcasting, especially since he replaced Billy Packer before the ‘08-09 season as the lead color analyst for CBS’s college basketball coverage — so I was naturally curious about Kellogg’s impressions of John Wall. Two, Kellogg also has intimate knowledge of the NBA. He’s served as a color analyst for Indiana Pacers games (mostly road games) for the past several years, and in July, he was named the Pacers’ VP of Player Relations. Third, the guy knows basketball, a chance to speak with him should not be passed up … despite the guise of Capital One’s promotion. So, here goes….
KYLE WEIDIE: Tell me a little bit about how you came about to be involved with this award.
CLARK KELLOGG: “I think on a number of levels. One, the Capital One folks and an advertising agency started putting together a campaign and actually targeted some folks that they felt had the same values of excellence and integrity, former college students athletes who had a fairly good platform via student athletics or broadcast or obligations to the community who could help to communicate what this wonderful program is all about to the institutions, to the fans and to the media, and I actually was selected, along with our other advisory board members.”
“I’m thrilled to be part of the advisory board team. I mean, that’s a high-quality group of former athletes, both at the collegiate and the professional level, and broadcasting.”
KW: With an award this prominent that looks at almost all sports, what type of impact do you guys hope to have on Division I athletics?
KELLOGG: “My feeling is that it gives the opportunity really to raise the awareness of the connection between excellence in athletics and academic excellence. Sometimes that gets ignored and not highlighted as much as it should be.”
“There are a lot of values that transcend and are related to performing well on the field, but also puts students in a position to excel off the field. The Capital One Cup, I think, is going to bring light to that.”
KW: Shifting specifically to college basketball … it’s always going to have a great product, but how it relates to the NBA and how it relates to the previous level (usually high school/AAU), it seems to be, I don’t want to call it a state of limbo, but the development of basketball in this country, using the college basketball system as a main conduit, seems to need some new direction. So, what’s your overall impression of the college basketball landscape?
KELLOGG: “You make some valid points, and it’s something that a number of stakeholders in the game have talked about and really tried to address.”
“A lot of times high school coaches are kind of squeezed out of the equation. Kids sometimes, in my opinion, actually often times, are developing their games because they’re playing too many games. They’re playing too many games and traveling as opposed to spending time in camps, or being able to sometimes connect the educational aspect of what basketball can be with the game itself.”
“The decision of jumping from high school to college to the pros, or from high school to one year of college then the pros, gets in front of the fact that basketball can be, or should be a means to an end for a lot of those that play the game because only a small, small percentage will get the privilege and opportunity to play at the pro level.”
“So it’s a comprehensive issue and it’s going to take a while to change the mindset and to get back to really trying to make it more of a progression towards total development in the game and as an individual as opposed to just thinking about the NBA and playing at the pro level. Trying again to get more balance to what basketball can be, and should be, particularly when kids are young. You have kids age 10, 11, 12 years old traveling all over the place, trying to play …. for what? What’s the purpose? Chasing a scholarship? Chasing a pro dream? At what cost? What are you giving up in development? What are you doing to the young body? And it’s not always fueled just by the players. Parents, family members, coaches sometimes are trying to direct kids to specialize in one sport at an early age when they’ve got interest and abilities in others.”
“It’s not something that we can easily answer in an interview, nor is it something that’s going to be turned around overnight. But I think we’ve got the winds blowing in a better direction with the stakeholders wanting to address the problems and try to make things different and better, and more balanced and realistic for all involved.”
KW: The one-year rule, is it good for the system overall? Does it need to be more? Less? Perhaps something like baseball where a kid can turn pro out of high school, else they have to go to college for a certain amount of time?
KELLOGG: “In theory, there are a lot of things that look good on paper, and when you actually put into context of reality, they show their warts. Again, this is an NBA collectively-bargained rule where players wouldn’t be draftable until they were 19-years old and a year removed from high school. So the next step would be that they end up in college, those who were thinking about maybe going straight from high school to the pros now are in college for a year.”
“I think it’s hurt both products, quite honestly. I think it’s had an impact, maybe not as much on the college game because the college game covers so many teams and has so many other variables. But at the NBA level, you get young, typically under-developed players, a lot of times with a sense of entitlement, not understanding the process of work and the demands of being in the pros. And they end up with all types of issues on and off the court because they come not quite as men in a man’s league. At the collegiate level, clearly it causes a lot of chaos.”
“I would love to see some type of hybrid, perhaps you look at what baseball does when a kid is drafted out of high school and you allow those individuals to go to the pros, but if they decide they’re going to college, that they stay at least two or three years.”
“Or it’d be great if you have a situation where players weren’t draftable until they’re 20 or 21, I don’t know how that would stand up in the court of law because of antitrust issues.”
“But I would like to see a modification and tweaking of what we’ve got now. That’s no guarantee, but I think it would improve the situation. I think it would positively impact athletes, the collegiate game, and the league if we had a 20 years old or two years removed from high school rule. It would give kids a chance to develop more on and off the court which would serve both games in the process.”
KW: Now the Wizards lucked out and got John Wall with the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. I know you’ve watched him a great deal, and I got to spend some time watching him out in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. He’s really impressed me with how together he has it as a person off the court, much less his skills on the court. But a lot of critics are pointing to his turnovers and jump shot. Are those the two glaring issues for Wall’s transition to the NBA and how correctable will those be, knowing what you’ve seen out of him so far?
KELLOGG: “I’m going to accentuate the positive first … it’s just my nature. I agree with you, I didn’t spend a lot of time with John off the court, but I did cover a couple of his games, and had a chance to talk to folks that were fairly close to him. And just watching his demeanor as a point guard on the floor. He seemed to be very unselfish and had an understanding of how to get other people involved and how to run a team. And at an early age, that’s really impressive.”
“And then you talk about his unbelievable acceleration, his speed from end to end. He has speed that he can control. He’s a guy who can go at a high rate of speed and still be under control. Those are things that you can’t teach … the feel and understanding of what an important point guard’s job is and the embracing of that. And then the speed, the electrifying speed. Those are tremendous assets that he has.”
“Clearly, the jump shot needs work. But that can be the case with a lot of players. It’s something that’s fixable. It’s not like having small hands, that’s something you can work on. Decision-making … and some of his turnovers are because of high-risk chances. But with a player of his caliber, you have to give some latitude for that. I think that’s something he’ll be able to corral.”
“I think he’s going into a situation where I think Flip Saunders is a terrific coach, and one of the more innovative coaches in the NBA, and that will be a great benefit to John as he transitions. To have a high-quality veteran coach who can maximize his strengths and help him improve his weaknesses … a guy who actually was a guard in his playing days, a good one. I think all of that is positive and I think John has a chance to be a real star in the NBA. Barring injury, he’ll be on that track.”
KW: Your work with the Indiana Pacers … recently the team landed a player who’s thought to be a young, top-notch point guard in Darren Collison. Previously, many in the media seemed to be wondering about the direction of the Pacers, but that’s seemingly changed now that Collison is there to go along with Danny Granger (and Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough, among others). However, there seems to be a struggle to get the program going with attendance for games not going well in the Hoosier state in terms of NBA basketball. Can you talk some about the direction of the Pacers and how landing Collison plays a role?
KELLOGG: “It was a positive move, no question. He’s an up-and-coming young point guard who had a terrific year last year as backup to Chris Paul in New Orleans — Paul was hurt and he put up some really impressive numbers. I think he’s the kind of guy who has tremendous character in addition to his abilities and a good young piece to kind of foundation your resurgence on. The Pacers have been down, out of the playoffs for the last four years. They’re a young team that’s trying to find itself and injuries have been a problem. As a result, attendance has been affected, no doubt about it.”
“There’s been a cloud over the franchise pretty much since the brawl in Detroit in 2004 that is slowly starting to dissipate. I think most of that is gone, but a young team still has to win in order to attract that strong fan base in Indianapolis and Indiana, and I think it’s going to take good quality players, hopefully competing for a playoff position this season to get fans back in Conseco Field House.”
[photos used via NBA.com]