Sure. We know what Championship Week and March Madness are all about: the drama and the tradition of the best college basketball teams in the nation going head-to-head, trying as hard as they can to make it to the field of 65. And for those that do make it, it’s about playing in a do-or-die tournament that’s probably the most exciting in the world.
But beyond those general, overarching pursuits, this time of year is also about college players making a name for themselves (and, potentially, millions of dollars in a sweet NBA contract because of their name recognition).
I’ll give you an example. Last year, which names did you hear constantly throughout the season? Michael Beasley. OJ Mayo. Kevin Love. But who, after an amazing NCAA Tournament where he went from a no-name point guard to absolute stud, was the first pick in the NBA draft and the likely NBA rookie of the year? Derrick Rose. He went from nobody to mega-star.
In fact, there are several guys every year who start out the month of March as relative no-names, and who play their way, either by way of their conference tournament or the NCAA tournament, into the NBA. Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Brandan Wright, Jeff Green. I could go on.
The point is, these guys made a name for themselves in March, and they decided to capitalize on it. If they’re smart (assuming they care about making lots of dough), athletes will make the jump and cash in on their name when the buzz is up and player stock is high. After the past 48 hours, I fully expect Jonny Flynn to do this. A few days ago, nobody outside of the Big East knew who Jonny Flynn was. Now, everyone knows this guy is a warrior, a talented floor general, and somebody with tons and tons of heart who also happens to be quite marketable. As much as I love his game and would not want him to leave, I actually think he should leave. His name recognition will never be higher. His stock is up. Sell. There are perils if you don’t.
We said on this site a two years ago that super-frosh Scottie Reynolds, after he dropped 40 on UConn (in Storrs, no less) late in the year and had an amazing Big East Tournament, should have left for the NBA. Was he polished enough for the NBA? Probably not. Was he a little soft? Probably. But his name recognition was huge. He was all over the national media, and we argued that he should have cashed in and gone to the NBA because the opportunity might not arise ever again.
Two years later, he’s still a great player on a solid Villanova squad. But all of a sudden he’s the second-best player on his team, and he isn’t glowing in the national spotlight (especially not after scoring 2 points on 1-6 shooting in the Big East semifinal the other night). Now, maybe he goes nuts in the NCAA Tournament this year and turns some heads. And maybe he gets a shot at the NBA after a stellar senior season. I still like his game, and I think he could make it in the next level. But he had the chance at making millions back in 2007, and he missed it.
So if you’re reading this, Jonny, think on it. Guaranteed cash in an economy like this? Be like Derrick. Don’t be like Scottie.