Final Four stars aren't NBA locks
Noah should take note of ex-UCLA standout O'Bannon
By Mark Montieth
Joakim Noah says he'll think about it in a couple of weeks.
If he has studied the appropriate history lessons, he'll think very hard.
The 6-11 sophomore was voted the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after leading Florida to the NCAA championship Monday. Before the last piece of confetti had fallen from the RCA Dome roof, pundits on deadline were declaring him ready for the NBA.
"Any team that has the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and doesn't take Noah, should he make himself available in the coming weeks, would be unbelievably dumb," Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post wrote.
Noah hasn't given so much as a head-fake in either direction. Publicly, at least. Asked after Monday's game if he might leave Florida for the NBA, he asked for a deferment.
"Right now, let us enjoy this," he said. " . . . Maybe in a couple of weeks I'll think about it."
Oh, he'll think about it all right. The deadline for declaring for the draft is April 28. Prospects can withdraw by June 18 and return to college without penalty if they do not hire an agent. Rest assured, agents, journalists, teammates and classmates will be grabbing Noah by his ponytail to ask him about his intention.
Logic would indicate he should go. Who could be hotter than the Most Outstanding Player on the championship team? NBA careers aren't always logical, however. Noah would only need to scan the list of previous Final Four MOPs to realize he's not guaranteed status in the NBA. Status in the draft, perhaps, but not in the league.
Noah has obvious attributes. He's rangy, quick, fast, aggressive and fluid. His performance in Florida's championship game victory over UCLA spoke to all of those assets with 16 points, nine rebounds and a record six blocked shots. He appears to have positive intangibles as well.
"Think of him as a 7-foot Andrei Kirilenko," suggests ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford, referring to the 6-9 Utah Jazz star.
Noah isn't all exclamation points, however. He spreads just 227 pounds over his 83 inches. In other words, he's built almost exactly like former Pacer Jonathan Bender. At that size, a player has to have a strong perimeter game, and Noah does not. His shooting form is ungainly, and his post moves are not yet polished.
As of now he's all energy, athleticism and potential. He might indeed turn out to be a star in the NBA, but he also might turn out to be, oh, Ed O'Bannon.
O'Bannon was an even more obvious MOP than Noah after leading UCLA to the 1995 championship. O'Bannon scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the title game victory over Arkansas, capping a career so impressive that when UCLA decided to retire jersey number 31 a few years ago, it retired O'Bannon's 31 rather than the 31 of Reggie Miller, who was the school's second all-time leading scorer when he graduated in 1987.
O'Bannon was the ninth pick in the NBA draft that year. He wound up playing two seasons for New Jersey and Dallas and averaged five points. He went on to play in five countries, then retired at age 30.
Today he's a happily adjusted salesman for a Toyota dealership in Las Vegas.
"I guess I wasn't as good as I thought I was," he told The Los Angeles Times.
Some players aren't. Even the Most Outstanding Players.
Something for Noah to think about.
Outstanding, then forgotten
A look at how some recent Final Four Most Outstanding Players fared in the NBA.
Year Player, school NBA career 2000 Mateen Cleaves, Mich. State Has averaged 3.6 points while playing for four teams. 1998 Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky Played 18 games for Atlanta, averaged 2.2 points. 1997 Miles Simon, Arizona Played five games for Orlando in 1998-99, scored two points. 1995 Ed O'Bannon, UCLA Played 128 games for New Jersey and Dallas, shot 37 percent. 1993 Donald Williams, N. Carolina Did not play. 1992 Bobby Hurley, Duke Played 269 games over five seasons, averaged 3.8 points. 1990 Anderson Hunt, UNLV Did not play. 1987 Keith Smart, Indiana Played two games for San Antonio, scored two points.
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