Fourth and Long
Today’s column is going to be less rant and rave and more random thoughts and observations.
It would be weird for me to start with anything but Kentucky winning the men’s national championship. While I will admit that I was not rooting for the Wildcats to win it all I certainly thought they would. They were clearly the most talented team in the Final Four and while the most talented team doesn’t always win the championship the most talented team doesn’t always have Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
I recognize that basketball is a team sport and Kentucky would not have cut down the nets without the likes of future NBA’ers Doron Lamb, Terrance Jones and Marquis Teague but in my opinion it was the play and leadership of Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist that set the Wildcats apart from everyone else.
Anthony Davis won player of the year and deservedly so. The 6’-10” freshman from Chicago averaged a double-double, scoring over 14 points and grabbing over 10 rebounds a game. Adding to those impressive stats was his 4.65 blocks per game average. All of these numbers simply confirm what everyone who has watched him play already knew. Davis can impact the game on both ends of the court.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may not have had quite as impressive of a stat line however given his consistency throughout the season I could argue that he may have been more valuable to his team than anyone. The 6’-7” freshman from New Jersey averaged just under 12 points and over seven rebounds per game. He was also the third on the team in assists, blocks and steals. He is the kind of player that fills up stats sheets and like Davis can impact the game both offensively and defensively.
Still with all of this talent and size I think it was the intangibles that set these two young men apart from everyone else on a team seemingly full of future first round draft picks. I watched Kentucky play several times this season and was amazed at the amount of competitive fire, hustle and selflessness both players showed.
Sometimes it was diving for loose balls, sprinting back down court on defense or passing up a decent shot only to find a teammate for a better shot. It was quite frankly the kind of work ethic and team play that players of their caliber don’t often show.
If they continue to play that way then I can only assume that they will have long and productive careers in the professional ranks, maybe for the Charlotte Bobcats next year. I’ll talk about how awful the Bobcats are another day though.
I don’t want to end today’s column without mentioning that another team won an NCAA basketball championship this week. The Baylor Bears capped off the most successful season in women’s college basketball history by going 40-0 and cutting down the nets in Denver.
While the men’s game and its players garner most of the media attention there is no doubt that the most dominant player in all of college basketball did not play for Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State or North Carolina. The most dominant basketball player in college is Baylor’s Brittney Griner.
The 6’-8” junior from Houston, Texas has been a force for some time however the improvement in her game from her freshman season to now is undeniable. Her basketball knowledge has improved and her ability to make her teammates better has never been so evident. That improvement alone may have been the biggest reason Baylor went undefeated this season.
David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publishing. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.