For Those Who Never Made It
The lead from a New York Times article published on April 15, 2005:
Five years ago, Andray Blatche was a laughingstock as a basketball player. Today he is considered a probable first-round draft choice in the National Basketball Association.
‘Late Bloomer Is Ready to Join N.B.A. Early’ by Mitch Abramson continues:
Blatche did not play organized basketball until he was in high school, and he was on the junior varsity until midway through his sophomore year at Henninger High in Syracuse.
Unlike wunderkinds like LeBron James and Sebastian Telfair, who were labeled prodigies almost from the moment they picked up a ball, Blatche failed miserably at first.
“He wasn’t very good as a ninth grader; I’ll be honest,” said Tom Atkins, his junior varsity coach. “He didn’t take adversity very well. He was pretty emotional, just a tall clumsy kid who didn’t know how to play the game yet – very raw.”
Sensing Blatche had talent but no direction, Atkins pulled him aside and worked with him after practice. Atkins saw quick results.
Blatche ended up being selected with the 19th pick, of the second round (49th overall) by the Wizards in the 2005 NBA Draft.
The whole article should be read, but this key excerpt makes you wonder, is Blatche the same struggling kid today, or must he go through a similar growth struggle at every level (including various levels within the NBA) and just needs a better life coach?
And you also wonder, why do talented guys like Blatche just happen to make it when others don’t? The answer lies deep within case-by-case studies and can never be painted with a broad brush. Although, it’s often easy to see what separates NBA champions from the rest, even though we can’t exactly describe that either.
This post is for those who didn’t make it. Recently, I asked several Washington Wizards — Andray Blatche, Hilton Armstrong, Trevor Booker, Al Thornton, Cartier Martin and Nick Young — who was the best player they came across in high school or college who never made it to the NBA. Talent comes and goes, but it’s not always forgotten.