How's that feel ...
to to the NBA ... again, again and again?
By Rick Stansbury
Mississippi State coach
There's not another school in America that has lost three high school players who were eligible to the NBA draft. I've got more experience at this than I want.
It first happened to me with Jonathan Bender in 1999, my first year as head coach. That one was like cutting my heart out for about two weeks. He was a kid who, since he was a ninth grader, I spent every hour of every day thinking about. I'd just gotten married that year, and it's amazing: I'd go to bed and fall asleep thinking about Jon Bender. As a young head coach, you knew the impact he would have on your program.
Until he had that great performance in the McDonald's game, breaking Michael Jordan's scoring record, there had been no one talking about him going pro. It just snowballed after that game.
Once you've had experience with one, probably the second one doesn't hurt quite as much. But it still hurts. Travis Outlaw is from Starkville, a kid who'd been around us since he was in sixth grade. I had no idea this young man would get drafted. We thought he had a lot of potential but still had to learn skills. I was totally shocked. With Monta Ellis this year, it wasn't until late in the process that we figured he'd go. He would always tell us if he wasn't a lottery pick, he was going to college. Last year was the first year there were guards taken that high, and Monta's only 170 pounds. We really felt like he wanted to play, not just be content to sit and get paid. He really wanted to make a name for himself in college, then go in as a lottery pick.
We've managed through all those. Somehow, some way, we've found ways for our program to still win championships. Naturally, with them we might have won more.