Monday, April 23, 2007

Recruiting Sagas

The college basketball recruiting process is almost over. Usually at this time of the year it is pretty much over. In the past there only remained a few players debating whether or not to go to college or be drafted by the Portland Trailblazers. But this year has been different, players have made recruiting a 24 hour soap opera that has lasted since last October until now. And I have a little news for these recruits - only hopeless romantic housewives and Jimmy Wood enjoy soap operas.

In truth, it has been a smart move by these recruits, namely, Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas to wait until the absolutely last opportunity to make a decision. There have been an unusual amount of coaching changes this offseason and they are keeping their names in the press far longer than many of the other high school phenoms. In many ways, their names have become bigger than OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and Michael Beasley the most talented five of this class. However, high expectations for college freshman seldomly go as planned. Kevin Durant had very little national hype coming onto the college scene last year because he was an early commitment to Texas. Greg Oden had the most hype and never really fulfilled it until his nasty fucking block against Tennessee in the tournament. (That block and the national championship game solidifed him as the number one pick in this summer's draft.) Anyway, my biggest fear is that PPat and Jai have set fan expectations too high by marketing themselves as the two biggest recruits for a host of talent depleted college teams - Kentucky, Florida, and Duke. Is it really their fault? Not really. I honestly believe it is a very difficult decision for both of them.

The difference with recruting these days is that talented kids have a large number of schools to consider. usually has at least 10 schools listed that each athlete is considering. You don't have to attend Kentucky, UCLA, Indiana, Duke, Kansas, or North Carolina to get noticed on a national scene. Players sometimes enhance their NBA stock by playing on less talented teams where they are able to shine and get as many minutes and shots as they want. However, for mid-level kids who aren't automatically making the jump after their first year, I think it is a lot smarter to play for one of the big six schools. As a college athlete, especially in basketball, you want to be playing late in the NCAA tournament. That means you want to be playing for a damn good team. NBA scouts love the NCAA tournament, and love players who play well in the NCAA tournament. Just ask Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Mike Conley Jr., and Al Horford in two months. As a player you want to give yourself the most exposure on the national scene as possible, and that means playing for a team that is good. There are of course exceptions, players that made a name for themselves on worse teams who made big runs in the NCAA tournament. (See Bryce Drew.) This brings me to the point of my post:

I don't understand why there aren't more versions of the FAB five, or Florida's version this year, the completely annoying five. If I were a top 50 talent, I would want to play with other players in my class who I had chemistry with. These guys play in camps, AAU, and highschool ball with each other for years before coming to college and have to have developed relationships with one another, not in the Christain Laettner/Bobby Hurley way, but in a "hey we could play well together" way. I don't think Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, and Rajon Rondo liked each other at all. In fact, I think they genuinly disliked Rajon. OJ Mayo and Bill Walker spoke all through highschool about playing together, but now they aren't. That's why the FAB five was such a special thing, and why, as much as I hate to say it, Florida's team this year was a special thing. If only my friends and I were taller, more athletic, better basketball players, and had a better work ethic. It could have been great.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Walter Herrmann Story

Sadly, many of our valued readers have only recently become acquainted with the life-changing experience that is Walter Herrmann. When words won't suffice, Awesome USA! turns to the power of video. Due to his raging popularity and soaring stock, I fear that I will never be able to afford my coveted Walter Herrmann jersey.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why I Hate Greg Oden

Delayed response? Yeah, I guess you could say that. But the more I think about Greg Oden, the more he pisses me off. Let me count the ways. First of all, I’m sick of him looking older than Mr. McAtee, the guy who has been collecting my parents’ garbage for 19 years. In an unrelated note, Mr. McAtee’s entire family is involved in his garbage collecting business. One time the garbage truck was broken and they had to use somebody’s old Cadillac, complete with two guys standing on the rear bumper with the trunk open as if the Caddy was a real garbage truck. His niece asked me for a beer once when I was nine years old. I felt guilty because I thought my racist dogs hurt black people’s feelings when they barked at them, so she did get a beer.

I also hate how big of a deal people made about Oden’s left-handed free-throw shooting. If he could make 90% with his right hand, I’d be way more impressed than 60% with his left. The guy is supposed to be the best center prospect since Bill Russell, and we’re supposed to do back-flips because he can make three out of five free throws with his left hand? I’ll hold my applause. There’s actually a chance Mike Conley Jr. could end out being a better pro than Oden (I’ll give it a 20% chance, just for the hell of it).

If refs didn’t give Oden nine fouls a game I don’t think anyone would know for sure if he was better than Hasheem Thabeet (who sucks, by the way). Of course, Greg slacked off for most of the season and totally redeemed himself at the end of the season. I know he’s good, and probably on track to become historically great, but absolutely everything he did came with a caveat. The annihilation of Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament (which came without Brian Butch, and then we saw just how much that meant when Wisconsin bowed out in the first weekend), then there was Oden helping OSU to come back against Xavier (with an intentional foul no-call of Laettneresque proportions), the amazing block at the end of the game against Tennessee (on a wild shot that probably wasn’t going in, taken but UT’s fourth best player), and the no-show against Georgetown. I’ll give him the championship game, but let’s be honest, that game was never as close as the score indicated, Oden wasn’t doubled once, and he still fagged out at the end. He also should have had about 12 technicals during the course of the tournament from doing chin-ups on the rim. If Greg tries to do that to Danny Fortson next year, it will be a blood bath.

Now to the real beef of my argument. We all know that Oden is a big time scholar. He loves to learn, and school means a lot to him. Greg is having a hard time deciding whether or not to go pro because he wants to get a degree. Let’s work this out. Is there any way Oden stays all four years? No. Can he graduate in two years? Not unless he’s going for the sociology degree that all those Duke players favor. Weigh out the risk versus reward, Greg. You could either go pro, and get enough money so you can always go back and get that teaching certificate you fancy so much, or you could risk a major injury and actually have to rely on said teaching certificate. Can you imagine having Greg Oden as a high school teacher? I’d throw rocks at him everyday to remind him how smart he was to go back to school. I think Oden is stringing everyone along so that people talk about his big decision instead of justifiably continuing to marvel at Kid Nut Raven.


Factoid of the tourney that I found most amusing à Billy Packer said “fag out” and it wasn’t a Joakim Noah reference. HEEEYYYOOO!! I’ll be here all weekend.

Did anyone see Nate Robinson pretend like he was going to get in a fight when the Bulls ran the score up on the Knicks last night? Honestly, how small is that guy’s penis? And how awkward do you think it was in Renaldo Balkman tried to get Randolph Morris fired up in case there actually was a fight? Does Isaiah just let Randolph hibernate at the end of the bench?

I’m sorry that nobody on the blog has written about this, but apparently Mike Vick is a wine connoisseur. I don’t really know what to do with this, but I think it’s funny.

The NFL draft is quickly approaching and my beloved Cowboys filled all their needs with second-tier talent via free agency. This puts them in a great position to take the best player available. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I’m holding out for Steve Lattimer, the face-painted maniac of fame from The Program. With the dawn of HGH, Lattimer’s dome is bigger than Jason Kidd’s son’s head.

I feel obligated to add that I might be the happiest person about the emergence of Walter Herrmann. He plays for the Bobcats, who I'm convinced will be a dynasty within three years (I just ignore the Michael Jordan personnel decisions and keep believing what I want). He is Argentinian, but has a blonde ponytail. He has an awesome name, and he completely dominated Team USA with his dazzling array of screens and hustle plays back in '04. I'm disappointed that the true American Dream had to come from South America, but I can't begrudge Walter for that. I told Natty three years ago that I was going to buy a Walter Herrmann Argentina National Team jersey, but I didn't have any money. Then I married a woman who can afford to support my addictions to cocaine and porn, but she draws the line at supporting foreign players. C'est la vie.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Dominant College Basketball Players--The Top 5

This is the final installment in a series of posts examining the most dominant college basketball players since the 1990-91 season. Without further ado, here are the Top 5.

1) Jason Williams (Duke): Absolutely did whatever he wanted on the court. All the more amazing because he was almost always the shortest man on the court. Amazing strength enabled him to get to the basket. I will admit he got a lot of calls, but, because he was the aggressor, he forced the officials to give him the benefit of the doubt. Fearless in crunch time. When I watched him at Duke in the waning minutes of big games, I felt sure he would hit whatever shot he put up or at least get to the line. Didn’t seem to matter how many hands were in his face when shooting 3s. One of the most underrated clutch shooters of all time. And with all his scoring (career average of 19 points per game), he was also great at setting up his teammates (never averaged less than 5 assists per contest). Willed his team to wins. Yes, he had an excellent supporting class, but he was simply on another level. A very good defender when he needed to be as well, in large part because he overpowered opposing point guards. The most explosive little man I’ve ever seen. Great body control and balance. Low center of gravity enabled him to pinball his way through traffic, and his upper body strength allowed him to finish. Played a little out of control at times, but still an incredibly intelligent player. Perhaps the ultimate team leader. Elevated the play of those around him. He also worked his ass off, which is saying something when you’re as talented as this guy. Almost always the hardest working player on the court. Bottom line: imposed his will on the game like no one I’ve ever seen before or since. I hope he gets another shot in the NBA.

2) Larry Johnson (UNLV): If he had had the ball in his hands as much as Jason Williams did, he would be number 1. As a point guard, Williams just had more opportunities to dominate. Still, LJ powered his way through smaller defenders and drove past the big guys. He was an excellent defender and totally underrated on that end of the floor (largely because of Stacy Augmon’s defensive excellence). Make no mistake, though, Grandmama was a lock-down defender. His strength and intelligence on the offensive end made it almost impossible to deny him the ball on any given possession. Had a truly multi-faceted game. Pretty good mid-range jump shot. Excellent facing up and spotting teammates, and even better on the dribble-drive and with his back to the basket. For all that that was made of his ability to put the ball on the floor and get the hoop, he also had an excellent post-up game. Amazing basketball instincts. Tremendous finisher on the break in a style reminiscent of Charles Barkley. Incredible rebounder, despite giving up inches to other power forwards. Averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest during both his seasons in Vegas. Perhaps the most intimidating college basketball player I’ve ever witnessed (including Shaq). Even if he wasn’t the most dominant college basketball player I’ve ever seen, he was, in my opinion, the best.

3) Shaquille O’Neal (LSU): It feels silly to try to explain why Shaq was dominant. Well, here’s a short list—the sheer size of the behemoth; his explosiveness and surprising quickness; even in college, he had a high basketball I.Q. for a center; dominates games without alienating teammates; likeable leader; strongest player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers; good hands; great with his back to the basket. As a collegian, he wasn’t even close to the passer he is today. While Shaq has definitely improved since making the leap to the NBA, he was also incredibly dominant in college. Averaged 12 rebounds or more in all 3 seasons as a Tiger. As a sophomore, O’Neal averaged 27.6 ppg. The fact that Christian Laettner was invited to be a member of the Dream Team was an absolute disgrace. Shaq was more dominant even back then. Would be hard not to rank the Big Aristotle number one if his Bayou Bengals had reached a Final Four. By the way, now is the time for Jumping Bull to make his Todd Lindeman Top 5 push.

4) Tim Duncan (Wake Forest): Was the professor of post-up moves by the beginning of his junior year. Always seemed mature beyond his years. However, his stoic demeanor never kept his from being a great team leader. One of the most underrated and intelligent defenders I’ve ever witnessed. The 102 blocks he registered as a senior marked the lowest season total of his career. Athletic interior opponents who lacked post skills and basketball I.Q. were easy prey for the Big Fundamental, even during his days at Wake. Always made it look easy—no wasted effort in Duncan’s game. When he played against the ACC powers, you could read the opposing coaches’ faces—“How did we miss this guy?” The fact that he stayed in school just makes it that much harder to leave him out of the Top 3. While he dominated nearly every match-up he faced, he disappeared from games more often than the guys in the Top 3 (but that doesn’t mean he disappeared very often). Didn’t take the Demon Deacons far enough in the tourney to break into the Top 3. Then again, the college game is dominated by guard play, and I think Timmy is rated a little lower because of it. Someone that played 4 years of Division I college basketball deserved to be on this list. Put up excellent numbers his entire career (as a senior, he averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds per game), but, as is the case with his professional career, Duncan’s impact can’t be reduced to mere numbers.

5) Corliss Williamson (Arkansas): During his time in Fayetteville, he was the Charles Barkley of college basketball. The ultimate tweener, Corliss outmuscled smaller opponents and drove around immobile post players. He had a great supporting class, but it was Williamson that made the Razorbacks champions. He was also a great leader and an incredible competitor. No one played harder (or rougher). He was fierce in the post, sacrificing his body for his team and bullying the opposition. Corliss could get out and finish on the break with the best of them. Finally, Williamson knew how to win and made his teammates better from the power forward position, which is often hard to do in the guard-dominated collegiate game. Career averages of 19 ppg and 7 rpg.

Glaring omissions? Stupid choices? Let me have it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lukasz Obrzut--"Grocery Monster"

Last night, Friends of a Feather, two comrades of Awesome USA! and lovers of all things Cincinnati, ran into everyone’s favorite former Wildcat—Lukasz Obrzut—at Kroger. This is their story.

Before we get to Obrzut, we need to introduce you to another character in this story. As we walked into the store we were stopped in the cart area by a Hispanic-looking man, who didn’t seem to know where he was. He wanted one of us to get on the phone with his girlfriend to give her directions to where he was so she could pick him up (more on this later). After that exchange, we proceeded into the store. While sitting at the deli, we noticed a large shadow fall over us. Upon turning around, we realized that Lukasz Obrzut had made his way into the deli section of the grocery and was now towering over us. Wu was with a woman who appeared to be his mother, although she only stood about 5-feet tall. Apparently, Wu’s mom is a ballet dance instructor because she was wearing tights and dance shoes. Anyway, without trying, we repeatedly found ourselves in the same aisle as the Obrzuts. While we couldn’t understand what they were saying (Polish is not our strong suit), we were able to make some observations.

1.The Obrzuts really like Capri Sun.

2.The Obrzuts enjoy a variety of milks. In fact, they had 3 different containers of 2% milk, all different sizes and brands (one Kroger half gallon, one Dean’s gallon, and also a paper carton half gallon).

3.The Obrzuts will not tolerate incompetence. They seemed to be upset at the deli manager’s response that the butcher was closed and they would not be able to obtain any more meat (Polish sausage I’m guessing).

4.The Obrzuts do not adhere to conventional grocery-shopping techniques. They had a large flower taking up a lot of room in one of their two carts. Their solution to this lack of space was to place their groceries on the bottom rung of the cart (fruit and cartons of milk), which is usually reserved for drinks and laundry soap. Also on this bottom rung, they had one mango and two different containers of strawberries, some in a bag and some in a plastic crate.

5.The Obrzuts will not be hurried during check-out. It takes a while to check out when you are operating on the patented 2-cart Obrzut system, but they put this time to use. First Mrs. Wu left and came back with three more boxes of Capri Sun. This brings their total to approximately 20 boxes of Capri Sun—not bags, boxes. Then, when they were almost finished checking out, Momma Wu sent Wu to get a single item, but he came back with his hands full. We’re talking three rolls of paper towels, a package of toilet paper, some paper plates, and a 50 pack of plastic cups. Once back he made sure to remove his U.S. army lanyard from his neck and have them swipe his Kroger card which turned out to be a good move because they saved over $35. We’re not sure what their total was, but $35 in Kroger savings, wow.

6.We’re not sure what type of party they were planning to throw – we just wish we were invited.

We walked into the parking lot to load our groceries as Wu was finishing loading his into a large F150. As we were leaving, the same Hispanic gentleman from earlier showed up at the window from nowhere with a Corona in his hand. Unexpectedly, he shoved a brown paper bag through our window and said “many thanks.” As we pulled away, we looked to see what he had given us. The Hispanic gentleman had rewarded us with the remaining 3 Coronas from his sixer. He had apparently spent his time well while waiting for his ride.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Apparently It's Opening Night

With all the madness that has been going ons lately you might have failed to realize that baseball season began tonite with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets - a rematch of last year's something important game. In fact, I did forget about baseball season, and when asked if I was watching the game tonite responded, "Dont' you mean tommorow night?" As the blogger who resides in the city of the defending champions, I thought it fitting that I give a preview of the upcoming season.

Every team will swing wooden bats at the baseball. Some will strike out. Some will get out. Some will reach a base. And some will hit a home run. Pitching seems to be very important. The players will try to throw the ball fast enough that the other player cannot hit it. It will usually be called a strike. Players will also steal a base, but only occasionally.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the defending champions and people tell me they are still good. Albert Pujols hits a lot of homeruns and the other players do well too. They were red.

The Chicago Cubs also play baseball. They have ivy on the wall of their field. My friend Brandon really likes them. People in St. Louis do not.

The New York Yankees usually do well and I hear they spend a lot of money on their players. Chuck Knoblach is their star player.

The New York Mets also play baseball and do pretty well. But I don't know what a Met is or looks like.

The Boston Red Sox are also an important team. It would behoove you to learn how to pronouce their new star pitcher. He wore a lot of fur coats on ESPN and that is usually a sign that he is paid well and talented. He will throw a lot of pitches this year and a lot of them will be strikes, which will result in outs. Outs are a good thing in baseball. Allowing homeruns and hits is a bad thing.

The Other Team That Lost To The Cardinals should also be pretty good and they were supposed to beat the Cardinals last year in the championship game. I think they have some pretty good players who are still on the team.

So that's your 2007 Baseball preview. If you are playing in a fantasy league this year pick the players who hit a lot or pitch a lot of strikes. They will give you high points and will help you win any league. I am predicting a repeat championship for the Cardinals and also good years for the other teams. I think there are some teams not mentioned here, but they aren't really important. If you are lucky enough to have tickets to any professional baseball games this year I suggest you scalp them, go to a bar, order some drinks, and hope basketball season isn't over yet. Have fun out there!