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49ers Museum July 6, 2017

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I recently visited the 49ers Museum in Santa Clara. The museum showcases the history of the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The 49ers competed in the All-America Football Conference for four seasons from 1946 to 1949. After the 1949 season, the AAFC disbanded; the 49ers’ owner, Tony Morabito, then successfully petitioned the NFL to accept his team. The Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns also made successful bids to join the NFL at that time.

2. The 49ers played their home games in Kezar Stadium until 1971. Interestingly, several high school and college teams also claimed that venue as their home stadium. A dirt path led from the locker rooms to the field; 49er Bob St. Clair instructed his teammates to kick up dust as they walked to the field before a home game, creating a nuisance for their opponents who had to take the field after them. A cage was also constructed to shield the 49ers from the abuse of their fans after home losses.

3. The 49ers featured the Million Dollar Backfield from 1954 to 1956. This four-man unit included:

Tittle notably modified his helmet for safety reasons. Also, Perry happened to be a classmate of Pete Rozelle at Compton Community College. All four of these men are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

4. John Brodie led the 49ers to three consecutive division titles between 1970 and 1972. During the 1970 season, he was – arguably – the top quarterback in the NFL, throwing 24 touchdown passes, including 12 to his top receiver, Gene Washington. He delivered an epic performance in the 1971 division-clinching win over the Lions, throwing three touchdown passes and running for another score.

5. Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss, Jr. captured the iconic photo of The Catch. Iooss had been assigned to follow the Dallas Cowboys during the 1981 NFL season on their presumed march to another Lombardi Trophy. During the 49ers’ game-winning drive in the 1981 NFC title game, he had two cameras slung around his neck. On the game-winning play, he prepared to take an end-zone photo with one camera; at the last moment, he switched cameras and snapped three end-zone photos in rapid succession, including the now-famous image of Dwight Clark and Everson Walls.

6. Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. was a successful businessman in Youngstown, Ohio. He made his fortune in real estate; his empire included shopping malls, race tracks and the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL franchise. The DeBartolos would later purchase the 49ers from the Morabito family.

The museum is relatively small, and it took me slightly under two hours to browse all of the exhibits; since I usually attempt to absorb as much information as possible during my museum visits, more casual visitors would probably need about an hour to complete that task. The staff members at the museum were also friendly and helpful; one of them took the time to explain how various life-sized statues of members of the 49ers Hall of Fame were created. He also shared various nuggets regarding The Catch.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to sports buffs who happen to visit the Bay Area.

International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum July 8, 2011

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I recently visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum in Newport. This museum preserves the history of tennis and highlights the accomplishments of a select few who made a significant impact on the sport.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The playing surface at each of the four major tournaments is an interesting mix of diverse materials, though each is built on a basic layer of subsoil. The surfaces at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open are similar in that both consist of layers of asphalt, concrete and crushed stone. The surface at the French Open is most notable for its topmost layer of crushed red brick, while the surface at Wimbledon consists of layers of a grass mixture and topsoil.

2. Both the U.S. Open and the Australian Open have been contested on multiple surfaces. The U.S. Open has been contested on grass, a clay-like substance known as Har-Tru, and its current hard-court incarnation. As for the Australian Open, it was contested on grass during its tenure at Kooyong before moving to hard courts at Melbourne. It should be noted that Jimmy Connors was the only player to win the U.S. Open on all three of its surfaces.

3. Harry Hopman transformed the Australian Davis Cup team into a powerhouse by instituting a demanding exercise regimen for his players that built fitness and stamina. Hopman was rewarded for his efforts as Australia captured an astounding 15 Davis Cup titles from 1950 to 1967. He would later move to the U.S. and play a behind-the-scenes role in shaping the career of John McEnroe. It should be noted that Hopman was actually a fantastic tennis player in his own right; he captured several major titles in mixed doubles during his playing career.

4. Maureen Connolly is one of the most underrated female tennis players of all-time. During her dominating 1953 season, she became the first woman to capture the Grand Slam; she only dropped one set in her run to that monumental achievement, and she only dropped an average of three games per match. She was only 18 at the end of that season and seemed poised for superstardom, but she was forced to retire after an untimely horse-riding accident. She would later die of cancer at 34.

5. In 1977, a major controversy arose in the tennis world due to the introduction of the spaghetti racket. There was widespread concern that because of its unique design, the spaghetti racket would enable players to strike balls with a previously unattainable level of topspin, providing them an unfair advantage. After a detailed investigation that involved extensive tests, the International Tennis Federation officially banned the spaghetti racket from competitive play.

6. The path to recognition of the beneficial role of professionals in tennis was not particularly smooth. Many of the top amateur players refused to turn pro, believing that such a move would be viewed as crass and undignified. Those amateurs who did turn pro fought a constant battle with the public perception that they were mere barnstormers. For quite some time, “shamateurism” prevailed on the amateur circuit, as event promoters would pay top amateurs “under the table” to attract them to their competitions. In light of this, it is somewhat ironic that Arthur Ashe had to forgo his prize for winning the 1968 U.S. Open title; it went to the runner-up, Tom Okker.

7. Bobby Riggs tirelessly promoted the Sugar Daddy brand in the run-up to the celebrated Battle of the Sexes in 1973. He actually wore Sugar Daddy apparel as he entered the Astrodome for that famous clash, and he only shed it after his warm-up session. The ratings bonanza that Sugar Daddy enjoyed from this famous duel allowed Riggs to continue earning a tidy annual sum of $50000 for the next decade as a pitchman for the company.

8. Jean Borotra, Jacques “Toto” Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene “Crocodile” Lacoste comprised France’s famed “Four Musketeers.” In terms of their on-court performance, each of them brought something different to the table, including Brugnon’s affinity for playing doubles and Cochet’s never-say-die attitude despite his relative lack of height. Yet the “four Musketeers” combined to win 20 Grand Slam singles titles and 6 consecutive Davis Cup titles, dashing the title hopes of the U.S. Davis Cup squad on several occasions.

9. The evolution of tennis balls and their containers has been, surprisingly, rather eventful. Early tennis balls were not green – they were white and were composed of cloth strips reinforced with twine; they would later rely on a hollow rubber core that characterizes all present-day balls. As for their containers, paper bags were initially deemed to be sufficient in this regard. Also, it should be noted that a shortage of raw materials during World War II led to the packing of balls in cardboard tubes (during that time, recycled and synthetic rubber were used to manufacture balls). In addition, at one point sealed metal containers with attached keys were the prevalent means of housing tennis balls; of course, once these pressurized containers were opened, it didn’t take long for each ball to become flat.

10. The evolution of the tennis racket occurred over several centuries. Modern-day rackets allow players to strike balls with power, and this arose from the French game of jeu de paume, where players used their hands to strike balls; later they would use gloves, wrap cloth strips reinforced with twine around their hands, and even borrow equipment from the game of pallone – enabling them to strike the ball with their wrists. Modern-day rackets also allow players to strike balls in a controlled manner, and this arose from court tennis, where players used slightly distorted wooden rackets. Combining these two attributes in the modern tennis racket allow players to hit punishing – and precise – groundstrokes.

The museum housed a treasure trove of interesting items, including a telegram sent by Jackie Robinson to Arthur Ashe congratulating him on his 1968 U.S. Open title, the scorecard signed by Roger Federer and Andy Roddick after their epic 2009 Wimbledon final match, and the outfit worn by Juan Martin del Potro during his run to the 2009 U.S. Open title. I also enjoyed watching a lawn tennis doubles match on the museum grounds, as I had never seen a grass-court match in person before my visit.

The one quibble that I had concerned the fact that in order to find reasonably-priced parking in downtown Newport, I needed to park in the garage next to the Visitor Information Center, which is about a 20-minute walk from the museum. I also needed to obtain a RIPTA one-day pass to obtain the desired $2 all-day parking fee at that garage. In all fairness, it appears that space in downtown Newport is rather tight, and so finding space for a parking lot at the museum would have been difficult.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to tennis fans.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum June 11, 2011

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I recently visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. This museum is dedicated to preserving the history of baseball and celebrating the achievements of the game’s best players, who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Many of baseball’s historic stadiums had (and still have, in the case of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) their quirks. For example, whenever the Cubs win, a white flag with a blue “W” is raised to the top of the center-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field; in the event of a Cubs loss, a blue flag with a white “L” is placed in the same location. Also, Ebbets Field had an advertisement for Schaefer Beer in the outfield; if a player reached base due to a hit, the “h” in the sign would light up, while the first “e” would light up if a player reached base due to an error. In addition, the Polo Grounds was actually shaped like a bathtub, and fans could watch games from Coogan’s Bluff, which happened to overlook home plate.

2. Bill Veeck carved out a unique place in baseball history. For example, he came up with the idea of allowing ivy to grow on the walls of Wrigley Field. Also, as the owner of the Cleveland Indians, he integrated the American League by signing Larry Doby. In addition, he placed an “exploding scoreboard” at Comiskey Park that was topped off with several light bulb-festooned pinwheels; this stimulated fan interest.

3. Baseball statistics are constantly being revised, leading to new discoveries. For example, it was thought that Ty Cobb held the record for most consecutive seasons as the league batting champion – with 7. Then it was discovered that in 1910, he was incorrectly credited with two extra hits in three extra plate appearances, which artificially raised his average over that of Nap Lajoie. With this correction, the new record-holder became Rogers Hornsby – with 6. Also, it was thought that Hack Wilson had 190 RBI during his astounding 1930 season. Then it was discovered that his statistics for the second game of a doubleheader that year had been omitted; he actually had 191 RBI that year.

4. Jack Chesbro is best known for having won a record 41 games during the 1904 season with the New York Highlanders. Interestingly, in that same year the Highlanders trailed the Boston Red Sox in the AL pennant race by 1.5 games entering a season-ending doubleheader. In the 9th inning of the first game of that doubleheader, Chesbro threw a wild pitch, allowing Lou Criger to score the winning run and clinch the pennant for Boston. This critical error would stay with Chesbro for the rest of his life.

5. Arch Ward became the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune in 1930, and he devised the concept of the All-Star Game in 1933 to lift the spirits of fans during the Great Depression. The first All-Star Game was scheduled to coincide with the World’s Fair in Chicago. Comiskey Park was selected over Wrigley Field to host that inaugural contest by virtue of a coin flip.

6. As expected, the origins of the game of baseball are rather nebulous. Sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding engaged in a debate on this issue with sportswriter Henry Chadwick; Spalding asserted that baseball was an American invention, while Chadwick believed that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders. Spalding later received a letter from a Cooperstown resident, Abner Graves, stating that Abner Doubleday had 1) invented baseball and 2) organized the first baseball game at Cooperstown in 1839. To Spalding, this essentially settled the issue, especially after Graves sent him a baseball that was purportedly used by Doubleday in that 1839 contest.

7. It should not be a surprise that baseball’s rules have changed significantly since 1839. In fact, the use of arcane rules has hindered the accurate compilation of statistics from baseball’s early years. For example, one such rule allowed a runner to advance from first to third on a hit – and be credited with a stolen base. Another arcane rule allowed a fielder to snare a hit after the ball had bounced once – and the batter would be called out. Yet another arcane rule stated that more than four balls were required for a batter to be issued a walk, which caused an artificial inflation of strikeout totals at that time.

8. The popularity of baseball during its formative years led to a financial windfall for many interested parties. Multiple revenue streams cropped up, including gate receipts and product advertisements that featured notable players such as Cap Anson and Buck Ewing; the media even profited by providing extensive coverage of America’s (burgeoning) national pastime that 1) played up team/individual rivalries and 2) added an element of intrigue to upcoming games. Inevitably the players wanted in on this action, and a breakthrough was achieved in 1869 when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional team, thoroughly demolishing their opponents that year as they won all 57 games while playing a barnstorming schedule.

9. Baseball began to flourish in Cuba after several Cuban students returned from the U.S. in the 1860s and introduced the game to the island nation. As a way of promoting inter-Caribbean commerce, Cuba then “exported” baseball to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where it also flourished; for example, the 1937 Ciudad Trujillo team in the Dominican Republic was one of the most dominant squads of all-time, featuring Negro League stars Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. Cuba may have also “exported” baseball to Mexico, though it’s unclear if the U.S. also played a role in establishing baseball in its southern neighbor. Inter-Caribbean baseball rivalries live on today in the form of the Caribbean Series, which features the winners of the winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

10. Baseball has always enjoyed an interesting relationship with the media. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America was actually formed after sportswriters lobbied for permanent press box seats in stadiums; previously they often found that their seats had been sold from under them by profit-seeking owners. At one point, owners feared the rising popularity of radio broadcasts of games, figuring that they would detract from their gate receipts. As time passed, owners learned to give the media more latitude, and as a result we have been able to enjoy the fruits of the labor of writers and broadcasters including Shirley Povich, Harry Caray and Vin Scully.

The museum contained a treasure trove of artifacts, including the uniform worn by Hank Aaron when he hit his 715th home run, bats that were used by Honus Wagner and spikes that were worn by Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. I enjoyed seeing all of the Hall of Fame plaques, especially those of the first five inductees. The village of Cooperstown was quite picturesque and the people who I encountered were quite friendly.

In terms of drawbacks, it would have been nice to be able to park on Main Street near the museum. In fact, parking is only available for two hours on Main Street, so I had to park at a lot and walk 15 minutes to the museum – which would have been unpleasant in the winter.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to all fans of baseball and those who are passionate about our nation’s history.

The Sports Museum March 6, 2011

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I recently visited The Sports Museum in Boston. This museum showcases the rich history of sports in New England and strives to teach important principles to youths, including leadership, teamwork and self-sacrifice.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Satchel Paige was one of the most colorful characters to ever set foot on a baseball diamond. He would entertain fans with his showmanship, performing feats such as firing 20 consecutive pitches over a chewing gum wrapper in place of home plate. With the tying run on base, he would call all of his fielders to sit behind the mound before he struck out the next batter. Despite his theatrics, he was one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, and none other than Dizzy Dean called him the best pitcher that he had ever seen.

2. The Beanpot is an annual ice hockey tournament held in February that features four Boston-area schools – Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern. The winner secures not only the Beanpot trophy but, more importantly, bragging rights in the Boston-area ice hockey scene. The tournament has sparked several memorable moments over the years, including a thrilling victory by Northeastern in the 1980 edition that ended a 28-year title drought.

3. The parquet floor that adorned Boston Garden was assembled in 1946 using wood scraps from oak trees in Tennessee. These wood scraps were employed due to widespread post-war material shortages; it took a skilled team of workers about two hours to bolt all of the scraps together in the interval between a Bruins game and a Celtics game. The parquet floor was rumored to have dead spots, where the basketball in play would mysteriously lose its bounciness; it was alleged that Red Auerbach and his players knew the exact locations of these dead spots and steered opponents toward them.

4. Bruins great Eddie Shore, who was one of the best defensemen in NHL history, was also involved in one of the league’s most violent moments. On December 12, 1933, the Bruins were playing the Maple Leafs at the Boston Garden. Shore was tripped by King Clancy and sought revenge. He ended up going after another Leafs player, Ace Bailey, and smashing him to the ice. Bailey’s career was effectively over after that infamous hit.

5. Dom DiMaggio, though overshadowed by Ted Williams and his brother, Joe, was actually a fine baseball player in his own right. He was small in stature and wore glasses, earning him the nickname “The Little Professor.” DiMaggio, though, was an astute student of the game and learned to properly position himself in center field, giving him a good jump on balls that were hit in front of him. He also helped cover up some of Williams’ defensive deficiencies in left field, and he was one of the best base-stealers of his time.

6. The Boston Athletic Association is the actual entity that hosts the Boston Marathon. Inspired by the marathon that was held during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the BAA organized the first Boston Marathon in 1897. The Boston Marathon has sparked many memorable moments over the years, including the 1936 edition where Johnny Kelley gave Ellison ‘Tarzan’ Brown a friendly tap on the shoulder as he passed him on the final ascent of the course. Brown was spurred by this gesture to outkick Kelley and win the race, earned that ascent the nickname “Heartbreak Hill.”

7. Steals have been featured in three of the most famous moments in Celtics history. The first steal was made by John Havlicek at the end of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and the 76ers, inspiring a famous call by Johnny Most. The second steal was made by Gerald Henderson, which led to a Celtics victory over the Lakers in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals. The third steal was made by Larry Bird and led to a game-winning layup by Dennis Johnson, as the Celtics triumphed over the Pistons in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

The museum is filled with a treasure trove of interesting items, including outfits worn by figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Todd Eldredge, an exhibit on the rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and a collection of photographs that celebrated the career of Rocky Marciano. I was also able to walk around the stands of the TD Garden, admire the various championship banners and retired jerseys, and watch some of the Pittsburgh Penguins go through passing and shooting drills in preparation for their game with the Bruins later that day.

In terms of quibbles, I should note that the exhibits are co-located with kitchens and food storage areas, so museum visitors should be aware that the TD Garden staff members will create a significant amount of foot traffic while they browse about; some patrons may view this as a distraction.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who want to gain an appreciation for New England’s love affair with sports.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame October 23, 2009

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I recently visited the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. The museum features a variety of exhibits that convey the wonders and nuances of basketball to the general public.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, did not believe in the benefits of actually playing the game. Instead, Naismith felt that a basketball player should strive towards “muscular Christianity”; this description was famously applied to Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. Naismith wanted players to focus on improving their physical fitness and learning the value of self-sacrifice via rigorous individual and team-oriented practice sessions.

2. Like other sports and games, basketball has had many archaic rules that seem a bit silly in retrospect. Some of these rules that stood out to me include the following: a) coaches could not coach their teams during games, b) coaches could not speak to their players during timeouts, and c) womens’ teams were allowed to have six players at a time on the court.

3. Before Stephen Curry, Austin Daye, and Pete Maravich, there was Christian Steinmetz. Steinmetz was college basketball’s first great scorer and became the first collegian to top 1000 points at the end of his career. Though he stood just 5-9 and weighed 137 pounds, he dominated games for the Wisconsin Badgers during an era when most players had trouble scoring.

4. Before Earl Boykins, Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues, there was Barney Sedran. Sedran was the first great “midget” basketball star and became the shortest player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, standing 5-4. As expected, he was a lights-out shooter, and he put up spectacular stats as a barnstorming pro.

5. The New York Celtics enjoyed an incredible run of success as one of basketball’s first great barnstorming teams. The Celtics pioneered the practice of signing star players to lucrative individual contracts; this allowed them to retain the services of stalwarts including Joe Lapchick and Dutch Dehnert. They also invented the zone defense and used it to great effect against bamboozled opponents.

6. The results of the NIT used to carry more weight than those of the NCAA Tournament when it came to determining the nation’s best college team; many elite Eastern teams would opt for the NIT as they preferred to play under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Perhaps the best example of this came in 1939, when the “Big Dance” concluded with Oregon defeating Ohio State 46-33. The NIT, though, saw a 24-0 Long Island team led by Clair Bee defeat Loyola in the finals.

7. John McLendon was the first great black basketball coach and actually learned the game from Naismith during his undergraduate days at Kansas. McLendon believed that his teams should adhere to the principle of “activity”; he pioneered the fast-break offense and favored an aggressive in-your-face approach on defense. These innovations allowed him to become the first coach to win three consecutive collegiate titles while he was at Tennessee State.

8. Most basketball fans would know John Wooden for winning ten national titles at UCLA and coaching Bruin greats such as Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. Wooden, though, was also a skilled strategist; for example, he devised the 2-2-1 zone press that harassed opponents as they attempted to bring the ball past the mid-court line. This full-court press tactic undoubtedly inspired Rick Pitino’s matchup press and Nolan Richardson’s 40 Minutes of Hell.

9. Bob Knight is famous for, among other things, his motion offense. In the motion offense, there are no set plays; the players utilize the tactics of crisp passing, sharp cutting and well-timed screening to set up good shot opportunities against any defense that is thrown at them. Knight intended that dribbling be kept to a minimum in the motion offense; perhaps that was due to the influence of Naismith, who did not include dribbling in his original thirteen rules of basketball.

10. Sergey Belov of the USSR was arguably the greatest international basketball player of all-time. Belov was the best player on the Soviet side that racked up several international honors during the 1960s and ’70s, including four European Championship and two World Championship gold medals. Unfortunately, he is best known, at least among American basketball junkies, for being on the Soviet team that defeated the USA squad in controversial fashion at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

From my perspective, the museum is really a basketball lover’s paradise, and one could spend hours browsing its various exhibits and mining hidden gems from the presented material. I enjoyed seeing artifacts such as the game balls for John Thompson’s 500th career victory, a pair of shoes worn by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the high school jersey of LeBron James. I also thought it was neat that the museum had a large basketball court on the ground floor that even featured a peach basket; many kids took the opportunity to shoot jumpers and layups on this court. In addition, the museum’s third floor features a panoramic display of photographs of the Hall of Fame inductees, which was quite awe-inspiring.

In terms of drawbacks, some of the interactive exhibits were not working. I also felt that the museum should have included some material on the thriving streetball culture, as that has played a major role in the development of modern basketball (for better or worse).

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum and I learned a lot. Also, I was told by one of the museum’s staffers that 80% of its collection is currently in storage; the exhibits are rotated every 3 months, so I would definitely be interested in a return visit at some point.

Reasonable Expectations for Star Hoops Recruits – Part IV April 19, 2009

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My previous post provided a synopsis of the college basketball careers of various members of the class of 2003.

This post focuses on players from the class of 2004. This class was perhaps best known for featuring a slew of preps-to-pros.

Again, many thanks to Statsheet for making this post possible.

Malik Hairston – Hairston was actually the only player on my 2004 First Team to play college basketball. He was a fine scorer, putting up 14.1 ppg, and rebounded well for a wing guard, putting up 5.1 rpg. His shooting needed some work, though, as he hit just 39.5% of his 3s and only 64.2% of his free throws. Oregon went 76-53 during his four years in Eugene, including making a trip to the Elite Eight in 2007.

Joe Crawford – somehow Crawford endured four years of the unique pressures that come with being a Kentucky Wildcat. As a testament to his work ethic, he improved his scoring and shooting over the course of his career, ending up with marks of 11.3 ppg and 43.7 fg%. Most of his other stats were fairly pedestrian, though, and Kentucky “only” went 90-45. The high point of Crawford’s career was a run to the Elite Eight in 2005 that ended with a loss to Michigan State.

Rudy Gay – Gay had a nice two-year run at Connecticut, though his detractors will always question his will to win during his time in Storrs. He put up solid stats, including marks of 13.6 ppg, 1.7 bpg and 1.3 spg. The Huskies went 53-12 and made it to the Elite Eight in 2006, losing to George Mason in an overtime thriller. Gay was then chosen by the Rockets with the #8 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

LaMarcus Aldridge – like Gay, Aldridge had a nice two-year college career. In particular, Texas benefited tremendously from rewarding Aldridge with increased playing time in his sophomore year. His solid career stats included marks of 13.5 ppg, 58.5 fg% and 8.2 rpg. The Longhorns went 50-18 and, like the Huskies, made it to the Elite Eight in 2006 before bowing out to LSU. Aldridge was then selected by the Bulls with the #2 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Jordan Farmar – though Farmar’s UCLA career started off fairly slowly, he ended his two-year stay in Westwood as one of the better floor generals in Bruins history. He put up 13.3 ppg and received extensive playing time with 32.2 mpg, though average marks of 5.2 apg and 1.2 spg bar him from inclusion in the Bruins’ pantheon. UCLA went 50-18, making it to the Final Four in 2006 before losing to eventual national champion Florida. Farmar was then selected by the Lakers with the #26 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

DeMarcus Nelson – Nelson showed an impressive work ethic during his four years at Duke, as he showed steady improvement in most of the key statistical categories. Some of his solid stats included averages of 10.8 ppg, 46.6 fg% and 1.2 spg. Like most Duke players, Nelson had a superb win-loss record of 109-27, though the Blue Devils never made it past the Sweet 16 during his college career.

Marvin Williams – Williams was “one-and-done” in Chapel Hill, and his brief college career was a blast. In limited playing time (22.2 mpg), he put up 11.3 ppg, grabbed 6.6 rpg and shot 50.6/43.2/84.7. He played a key role on a Tar Heels squad that went 33-4 and won the national title by beating a superb Illinois squad. Williams was then selected by the Hawks with the #2 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

D.J. White – White’s four years at Indiana ended with him being coached by Kelvin Sampson, and we all know how that went for the Hoosiers. He put up strong stats, averaging 14.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 2 bpg along with a 56.2% mark from the floor. He also bounced back from a broken left foot that wiped out most of his sophomore year. Indiana went 80-45, though they never made it past the second round of the Big Dance.

Randolph Morris – Morris had a decent three-year stay in Lexington, though Big Blue Nation expected much more from him. His stat line included marks of 12.6 ppg and 6.0 rpg in limited playing time (23.8 mpg). He also shot 57.8% from the floor and put up a decent 66.1% from the charity stripe. Kentucky would have benefited from better play by Morris, though, as the Wildcats went 72-31 and never made it to the Final Four. Morris then signed with the New York Knicks in 2007; interestingly, he went undrafted in 2005 but had his eligibility restored by the NCAA even though he had hired an agent.

Darius Washington Jr. – Washington had an interesting two-year stay at Memphis. He proved to be a scoring guard, averaging 14.4 ppg while only dishing out 3.5 apg. While he played solid defense, averaging 1.5 spg, he’s perhaps most famous for missing a free throw in the 2005 Conference USA title game, giving Louisville the title instead. The Tigers went 55-20 and lost to UCLA in the 2006 Elite Eight. Washington then declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was not selected.

Arron Afflalo – Afflalo finished his three-year stay at UCLA as one of the best players of the post-Ed O’Bannon era. His scoring was his hallmark, as he put up 14.8 ppg. Most of his other stats weren’t eye-popping, though, which keeps him from inclusion in the Bruins’ pantheon. For example, he only shot 37.3% from beyond the arc and put up a mere 3.5 rpg. The Bruins went 80-24 and made it to the Final Four in 2006 and 2007, losing to Florida both times. Afflalo was then selected by the Pistons with the #27 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Mike Williams – Williams had a very quiet two-year stay in Austin. He never averaged more than 15 mpg and put up other pedestrian stats, such as marks of 3.2 and 2.3 ppg in his two seasons as a Longhorn. It’s safe to say that Aldridge made the bigger impact for Texas in this recruiting class. Williams then transferred to Cincinnati.

Glen Davis – “Big Baby” Davis had a great three-year run for LSU. His excellent stats included marks of 16.7 ppg and 9.6 rpg, though his 49.5% shooting from the floor could have been better. He saw extensive playing time (32 mpg) and played good defense, averaging 1.2 bpg and 1.1 spg. The Tigers went 64-34, losing to UCLA in the 2006 Final Four. Davis was then selected by the Sonics in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft.

The overall results were revealing. Of the 60 profiled players who played college basketball, only five of them (Jawad Williams, Felton, McCants, Anthony and Marvin Williams) played on national title-winning teams. 11 others (Torbert, Ford, Simien, Paul Davis, Redick, Shelden Williams, Brown, Deng, Farmar, Afflalo and Glen Davis) played on teams that reached the Final Four at least once. 14 others (Fraser, Rodgers, Adams, Winston, Padgett, Brooks, Butch, Nardi, Hairston, Crawford, Aldridge, Morris, Washington Jr. and Mike Williams) played on teams that reached the Elite Eight at least once. 14 of the profiled players (Lee, Childress, Redick, Roberson, Shelden Williams, Brooks, Butch, Jones, Ibekwe, Hairston, Farmar, Nelson, Washington Jr. and Afflalo) captured at least one conference tournament title.

Based on these results, here are what I think constitute reasonable expectations for a star hoops recruit. First, the recruit must play well; to clarify, he should be regarded (by a reputable authority such as Statsheet) as one of his team’s top five players for the majority of his time in school. Second, his team should advance to the Elite Eight at least once during his career.

Hopefully rabid college fans will remember that quite a few factors go into either winning a national title or making a Final Four appearance, such as luck (March Madness), coaching, cohesiveness and the right amount of talent. On the last point, see the 2002 Maryland and 2006-07 Florida teams, which featured just one McDonald’s All-American among them (Corey Brewer).

Reasonable Expectations for Star Hoops Recruits – Part III April 11, 2009

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My previous post provided a synopsis of the college basketball careers of various members of the class of 2002.

This post focuses on players from the class of 2003. This class was perhaps best known for featuring the best prep star since Lew Alcindor…

Again, many thanks to Statsheet for making this post possible.

Chris Paul – Paul had a high-profile two-year run at Wake Forest. He was one of the best floor generals in the nation during his career, averaging 15.0 ppg, 6.3 apg and 2.5 spg. His stellar shooting was just icing on the cake; he put up 47.1/46.9/83.8. Paul led the Demon Deacons to a 48-16 record, though they never made it past the Sweet 16. He was then selected by the Hornets with the #4 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

Shannon Brown – The athletic Brown had a decent three-year career at Michigan State. He began to emerge as a dominant scorer in his junior year, putting up 17.2 ppg. For his career, he shot a sterling 83.1% from the foul line and averaged a solid 28.0 mpg, though his 36.4% shooting from beyond the arc should have been better. The Spartans went 66-31 and made it to the Final Four in Brown’s sophomore year; he was then selected by the Cavaliers with the #25 pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Drew Lavender – Lavender put up fairly pedestrian stats during his two years at Oklahoma. While he played solid defense, averaging 1.7 and 1.6 spg in his two seasons as a Sooner, he never cracked the 4 apg barrier, which is quite galling for a lead guard. The Sooners went 45-19 from 2003-05 and only appeared in the Big Dance once, bowing out in the second round. Lavender then transferred to Xavier.

Dion Harris – Harris happened to play for the Maize and Blue during their long NCAA Tournament drought. He played extensively for Michigan, averaging 32.1 mpg. While he shot a superb 80.4% from the foul line, marks of 38.1% from the field and 35.4% from the 3-point line didn’t cut the mustard. The Wolverines went 80-53 during Harris’ four years in Ann Arbor, winning the NIT title in his freshman year.

Luol Deng – Deng had a superb “one-and-done” run at Duke. He put up 15.1 ppg and 6.9 rpg, getting extensive playing time with a mark of 31.1 mpg. He also proved to be a capable defender, averaging 1.1 bpg and 1.3 spg. The Blue Devils went 31-6, advancing to the Final Four before falling to eventual national champ Connecticut. Deng was then chosen by the Suns with the #7 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

Kris Humphries – Humphries had a strange journey to Minnesota, as he originally signed with Duke before obtaining a release from his National Letter of Intent. He put up superb stats for the Golden Gophers in his one season of college ball, including marks of 21.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 1.1 bpg. Minnesota only went 12-18 and missed the postseason, though. Humphries was then selected by the Jazz with the #14 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

David Padgett – Padgett stayed one season in Lawrence and got some decent run, putting up 19.2 mpg. While his scoring (6.5 ppg) and rebounding (4.5 rpg) were decent for a freshman, fellow diaper dandies would have been glad to match his 1.4 bpg. The Jayhawks went 24-9 and lost to Georgia Tech in the Elite Eight, and Padgett transferred to Louisville during the off-season.

Aaron Brooks – Brooks stayed four years at Oregon and went through various ups and downs. After improving his stats across the board in his sophomore year, his junior season was a disappointment. Then he played well in his senior year to finish with solid career averages of 13.1 ppg and 83.3% shooting from the foul line. Brooks’ 4.1 apg and 1.1 spg showed that he was definitely a shoot-first guard, though. The Ducks went 76-42, losing to eventual national champ Florida in the Elite Eight in 2007.

Brandon Cotton – Cotton had a very brief, sad stay in East Lansing. He only played a total of 16 minutes over three games for the Spartans. After his uncle was shot and killed, Cotton decided to transfer to Detroit. For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that Michigan State went 18-12 that season, losing to Nevada in the first round of the Big Dance.

Brandon Bass – Bass had a good two-year run at LSU. His solid numbers included averages of 15.1 ppg, 77.9% shooting from the charity stripe, 8.2 rpg and 1.8 bpg. He also saw extensive action for the Tigers, as he averaged 34.3 mpg. LSU went 38-21 and never made it past the first round of the Big Dance, though. Bass was then selected by the Hornets in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Leon Powe – like Brooks, Powe’s college career had its highs and lows. He put up great numbers for Cal when he was healthy, including marks of 17.8 ppg and 9.8 rpg in 32.5 mpg. Unfortunately, knee surgery kept him out of the 2004-05 season. The Golden Bears went 33-26 in the two years that Powe suited up for them, never making it past the first round of the Big Dance. Powe was then selected by the Nuggets in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

Brian Butch – it’s safe to say that in many respects, Butch’s career at Wisconsin was not spectacular. He took the atypical step of redshirting his freshman year. Then he put up pedestrian stats during his four years in Madison, including marks of 9.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 62.6% shooting from the foul line. His defenders will note that he put up these stats in only 20.0 mpg, though his detractors will ask why he didn’t receive extensive playing time. The Badgers went 105-32 and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2005, losing to eventual national champ North Carolina.

Mike Nardi – Nardi had a decent 4-year career for Villanova, playing in Jay Wright’s guard-friendly system. He put up 10.1 ppg, 3.3 apg and shot 82.6% from the foul line, though his 37.8% shooting from beyond the arc wasn’t quite up to snuff. The Wildcats benefited from his extensive time on the court (30.9 mpg) as they went 92-41, losing to eventual national champions North Carolina and Florida in the 2005 and 2006 editions of the Big Dance, respectively.

Mike Jones – Terrapins fans probably couldn’t have guessed that Jones would only put up 18.6 mpg when he signed on the dotted line for Gary Williams. On the bright side, his shooting averages of 43.2/41.0/80.2 were superb for an athletic wing guard. Maryland went 83-47 during Jones’ four years in College Park, never making it past the second round of the Big Dance. They did beat Duke to win the ACC Tournament in 2004.

Ekene Ibekwe – Ibekwe joined Jones in a recruiting class that definitely looked promising for the Terps back in 2003. Like Jones, he saw limited playing time, averaging 21.0 mpg during his four-year stay in College Park. While most of his stats were nothing to sneeze at, he did put up 6.1 rpg and 1.8 bpg.

Reasonable Expectations for Star Hoops Recruits – Part II April 1, 2009

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My previous post provided a synopsis of the college basketball careers of various members of the class of 2001.

This post focuses on players from the class of 2002. I recall that back in 2002, recruiting experts rated this class solidly behind its predecessor.

Again, many thanks to Statsheet for making this post possible.

Raymond Felton – Felton made an immediate impact at North Carolina and was the key cog on their 2005 national championship squad (it can be argued that he was more vital to the Tar Heels’ success than Sean May). He proved to be a superb floor general, averaging 6.9 apg and 1.9 spg over the course of his three-year stay in Chapel Hill. After leading Tar Heel Nation to a 71-31 record, the Bobcats selected him with the #5 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

Rashad McCants – McCants also played a vital role in the Tar Heels’ 2005 national title run, making this UNC recruiting haul a smashing success (May was also in this class). He was a fantastic scorer during his three-year college career, averaging 17.6 ppg and shooting 48.4% from the floor, along with a 41.4% mark from beyond the arc. This mercurial talent was then selected by the Timberwolves with the #14 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

Carmelo Anthony – Anthony’s one year at Syracuse was spectacular, to say the least. He put up awesome stats, including 22.2 ppg and 10.0 rpg; perhaps the best sign of his importance to the Orange was his 36.4 mpg mark. Anthony led the Orange to a sparkling 30-5 record and the national title in a thrilling 81-78 victory over Kansas. He was then selected by the Pistons with the #3 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.

Paul Davis – Davis put up decent stats during his career at Michigan State, including marks of 13.2 ppg, 53.7% from the floor, 7.0 rpg and 1.1 spg. Unfortunately, he was never the best player on any of the four Spartans squads that he suited up for. Michigan State went 88-44 from 2002-06 and made it to the Big Dance each year, including Elite Eight and Final Four appearances in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

Daniel Horton – Horton put together a real four-year mixed bag with Michigan. Pros: he averaged 14.7 ppg and 1.7 spg. Cons: he only shot 39.5% from the floor and 35.7% from beyond the arc. The Wolverines went 76-52 and had only two NIT appearances to show for Horton’s time in Ann Arbor, though they did win the 2004 NIT title.

J.J. Redick – Redick finished his career as one of the best two-guards in college basketball history. A consummate winner, his four-year run at Duke included a record of 116-23 and three ACC Tournament titles. His well-documented scoring (19.9 ppg, including 26.0 ppg during his senior season), three-point (40.5%) and free-throw (91.1%) exploits made him a deadly offensive threat; the fact that the Blue Devils never won a national title tarnishes his legacy to some extent, though.

Chris Bosh – all of the hoopla surrounding Anthony obscures the fact that Bosh also had a great “one-and-done” college experience. He put up 15.6 ppg and 9.0 rpg for Georgia Tech, shooting 56% from the floor and 73% from the foul line. The Yellow Jackets only went 16-15 and missed the Big Dance, though. Bosh was then picked #4 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Raptors.

Jason Fraser – though Fraser entered Villanova with plenty of hype, injuries ruined his career. He only put up 5.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg, averaging a paltry 20.4 mpg. The Wildcats did go 85-46 during his four-year stay in Philadelphia, though that sterling record was largely due to stars such as Randy Foye and Allan Ray. To Fraser’s credit, this New York Times article shows that Fraser definitely had plenty going for him off the court.

Anthony Roberson – “Peeper” proved to be a superb offensive threat during his three years in Gainesville, putting up 15.8 ppg and shooting 44.3/40.1/86.4. The Gators went 69-27 and won the 2005 SEC Tournament, beating Kentucky in the final. Florida never made it past the second round of the Big Dance during Roberson’s career, though; he then declared for the 2005 NBA Draft and went undrafted.

Bracey Wright – Wright had a reputation for being a superb long-range shooter, but he only shot 34.9% from beyond the arc during his three-year career for Indiana. His impact on the Hoosiers was debatable, as they went 50-42 and only made it to the Big Dance once, losing to Pittsburgh in the second round in 2003. On the bright side, he averaged 17.6 ppg and dished out 5.1 apg; he also averaged 35.7 mpg. Wright then declared for the 2005 NBA Draft and was picked in the second round by the Timberwolves.

Evan Burns – Burns had an interesting recruiting journey. He initially committed to UCLA, though he failed to gain admission and ended up at San Diego State. Burns’ one season with the Aztecs wasn’t spectacular; they went 16-14 and missed the Big Dance. While his offensive stats weren’t great, he proved to be a great defender, putting up 1.0 bpg and 1.2 spg in 22.4 mpg. Unfortunately, he became an academic casualty and was kicked off the team after the season.

Shelden Williams – the “Landlord” certainly lived up to his moniker during his 4-year run in Durham, averaging 9.1 rpg and 3.0 bpg. He even put up 1.2 spg and shot 57.1% from the floor to boot. As his career completely overlapped with Redick’s, he also went 116-23 during his college career. His high point at Duke came when the Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four in 2004, losing to eventual national champ Connecticut.

Torin Francis – Francis proved to be a mixed bag for Notre Dame during his 4-year career. On one hand, he grabbed 8.6 rpg and tallied 1.4 bpg. On the other hand, he only scored 11.3 ppg and shot 49.7% from the floor. The Irish went 76-49, only making it to the Big Dance in 2003 and losing in the Sweet 16 to Arizona. Francis was never close to being the best player on any of the four Irish squads that he suited up for.

Chris Rodgers – Rodgers never blossomed into the star that Wildcats fans expected him to become. He only put up 6.3 ppg and saw limited playing time, averaging 19.4 mpg. Arizona did go 98-34 during his 4-year career, though other players played a larger role in contributing to that sparkling mark. The Wildcats made it to the Elite Eight in 2003 and 2005.

Hassan Adams – one of those star Wildcats turned out to be Adams. Somehow he stayed four years in Tucson and stuffed the stat sheet in a variety of ways, including averages of 14.0 ppg, 49.9 fg%, 5.4 rpg and 1.8 spg. He was one of the stars on the Arizona squad that pushed top-ranked Illinois to the brink in their 2005 Elite Eight matchup. The Wildcats led the Illini by 15 with 4 minutes to play, and the rest is history.

Kennedy Winston – Winston proved to be a solid scorer during his three-year run in Tuscaloosa, averaging 16.2 ppg. The Crimson Tide went 61-33 during his career, including a spectacular run to the Elite Eight in 2004 that included a second-round upset of top-seeded Stanford. While Winston was the best player on the Tide throughout most of his career, his decision to declare for the 2005 NBA Draft was not vindicated.

Reasonable Expectations for Star Hoops Recruits – Part I March 17, 2009

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My last post got me thinking about the analogous situation in college basketball. In particular, it’s not uncommon for rabid hoops fans to expect national titles/Final Four appearances/conference tournament titles from their star recruits, especially those who are McDonald’s All-Americans.

Again, I did a small study based on my old prep all-America lists from 2001 to 2004. You can find the lists here. Note that 1) some of the players listed were not McDonald’s All-Americans, though all of them were heavily recruited and 2) I did not track players who never played college basketball.

This post focuses on players from the class of 2001. If I remember correctly, this class was quite ballyhooed at the time.

Many thanks to Statsheet for making this post possible.

Dajuan Wagner – Wagner played at Memphis for one season before becoming the latest “one-and-done” star. He was the best player on a fairly weak Tigers squad, leading them in scoring (21.2 ppg) and minutes (31.8 mpg). Unfortunately, they missed the NCAA Tournament despite compiling a 27-9 record; Wagner did lead them to the NIT tournament title. “Juanny” ended up being picked #6 overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers.

Kelvin Torbert – Torbert actually stayed at Michigan State for four years, which was much longer than Spartans fans initially expected. A dominant scorer in the prep ranks, he put up a paltry 9.3 ppg, even accounting for the fact that he played for Tom Izzo. The Spartans did go 85-44 during his four years in East Lansing and even made it to the Final Four in his senior season, though he only started twice that year.

Jawad Williams – like Torbert, Williams played four years of college ball. He put up fairly solid stats at North Carolina, including averaging 12.7 ppg; perhaps the best indicator of his abilities was his starting 105 out of 128 games during his Tar Heel career. After suffering through an 8-20 season as a freshman, Williams compiled a career mark of 79-51 and played a key role on the Tar Heels’ 2005 national title run.

Jonathan Hargett – like Wagner, Hargett was “one-and-done”, though he was “done” for a very different reason. He led West Virginia with 4.6 apg and 88.1 ft% (stellar), though he only shot 30.3% from the floor and 28.8% from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers went 8-20 that year, including an 0-4 mark against top-25 teams. Hargett was declared ineligible after his freshman season for allegedly receiving payments from an agent.

Julius Hodge – Hodge stayed four years at N.C. State and put up good stats, including 15.8 ppg and 6.0 rpg (strong for a wing player). Perhaps the most telling sign of his importance to the Wolfpack was his averaging 33 minutes on the floor. During Hodge’s time at Raleigh, the Wolfpack went 83-48; unfortunately, they only advanced as far as the Sweet 16 in 2005, losing to Wisconsin.

James White – “Flight” White was “one-and-done” at Florida, though like Hargett, his “done” was not for a particularly good reason. White put up fairly pedestrian stats during his freshman year, including shooting 50.0% from the foul line. Getting 20.5 mpg probably didn’t help matters. The Gators went 22-9 and were bounced out of the first round of the Big Dance by Creighton, and White transferred to Cincinnati after the season.

David Lee – unlike White, Lee stayed four years in Gainesville. Lee actually improved his scoring/rebounding/steals during each year of his college career, which showed his willingness to work and raise his level of play. The Gators went 91-36 during Lee’s career and beat Kentucky to win the SEC tournament in his senior year. Unfortunately, Florida never advanced beyond the second round of the Big Dance.

T.J. Ford – Ford had a stellar two-year run in Austin and was arguably the best lead guard in the country throughout his college career. While his 12.9 ppg was pretty neat, he really turned heads by handing out 8 assists and racking up 2.1 spg. Texas went 48-19 during Ford’s career and made it to the Final Four in 2003, losing to the eventual national champs (Syracuse).

Dommanic Ingerson – though Ingerson was only “one-and-done” at Michigan for a less-than-ideal reason, he actually played quite well. In only 16.2 mpg, he put up 8.1 ppg, shooting 42/41.9/80.6. The Wolverines only went 11-18, though, including an 0-9 mark against top-25 squads. Ingerson then transferred to USF.

John Allen – Allen emerged from Richard Hamilton’s hometown to play four years at Seton Hall. His career average of 12.3 ppg was decent, and getting 1.2 spg was pretty good for a wing guard. Unfortunately, Allen only shot 29.1% from beyond the arc, and the Pirates went 62-57 during his career including a lone NCAA Tournament appearance during his junior year; they bowed out to Duke in the second round.

Wayne Simien – Simien had a nice four-year run for Kansas. A tireless worker, he improved over the course of his career and put up 15.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg, shooting 55.8% from the floor. The Jayhawks went 110-28 during Simien’s time in Lawrence and appeared in the Elite Eight three times; they narrowly lost the 2003 national title to Syracuse after Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt was blocked by Hakim Warrick.

Carlos Hurt – Hurt was “one-and-done” at Louisville, though his college career ended with a thud. Hurt only averaged 3.4 apg and shot 36.7/27.7/41.2; the last stat is particularly mind-boggling for a lead guard. The Cardinals went 19-13 and missed the NCAA Tournament that year. In the offseason, Hurt was kicked off the team by Rick Pitino.

Josh Childress – Childress stayed three years in Palo Alto and improved in most major categories over the course of his Stanford career. He rebounded well for a wing player (6.8 rpg) and was a fairly nasty defender (1.1 bpg and 0.9 spg). The Cardinal went 74-21 from 2001-04 and beat Washington to win the Pac-10 tournament in 2004, though they never made it past the second round of the Big Dance. Childress was picked #6 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Hawks.

Anthony Richardson – Richardson stayed four years in Tallahassee and put up fairly mediocre numbers. Perhaps his most disappointing stat was his 20.0 mpg; he only averaged over 18.0 mpg during his sophomore year. The Seminoles only went 57-65 during Richardson’s career and never made it to the Big Dance, though they did play in the NIT in his junior year.

Rick Rickert – Rickert left Minnesota after two seasons, compiling average numbers along the way. While he put up 14.9 ppg, his 46.9 fg% left much to be desired, especially for a post player. He also put up only 5.7 rpg. The Golden Gophers went 37-27 and missed the Big Dance both years. Rickert then wound up as a second-round pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Timberwolves.

David Harrison – Harrison stayed three years in Boulder and put up good stats. In terms of the four key stats for a post player, he acquitted himself quite well (15.0 ppg, 60.1 fg%, 8.0 rpg and 2.6 bpg). The Buffaloes went 53-37 and made it to the Big Dance in his sophomore year, losing to Michigan State in the first round. Harrison was then picked #29 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Pacers.

Reasonable Expectations for Star QB Recruits October 2, 2008

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I recently came across this article on Jimmy Clausen’s press conference where he verbally committed to Notre Dame. It took me back to the spring of 2006, when a tremendous amount of hype surrounded the rising high school senior from Westlake Village, CA.

The article was interesting, and one quote in particular caught my eye. Clausen mentioned that one of his goals was to essentially lead Notre Dame to four national championships during his time in South Bend, which really fired up the crowd at the press conference.

This got me thinking about the hype that usually accompanies the signing of a star quarterback recruit. Quarterbacks are (rightly or wrongly) perceived as the heroes who will lead their teams to national titles. The key question for me, then, was: should a rabid fan base expect their top QB recruit to lead their team to at least one (if not more) BCS titles?

I did a small study of this based on my old prep all-America lists from 2000 to 2003. You can find the lists here. The quarterbacks for each list were all consensus top-5 signal-callers after their senior seasons.

The results were quite alarming, in my opinion.

Let’s start with the team from 2000:

Joe Mauer – Florida State fans who have grown weary of their team’s poor play at QB must be kicking themselves, wondering how things would have gone had Mauer actually suited up for the Seminoles. It’s difficult to call Mauer a bust, though, seeing as how he was the #1 pick in the 2001 Major League Baseball amateur draft. After being called up to the majors in 2004, he played in the 2006 and 2008 MLB All-Star Games and led the AL in batting average for both seasons. He’s now arguably the best catcher in the big leagues.

D.J. Shockley – Shockley redshirted in 2001 and then sat behind Georgia legend David Greene for three years before finally getting the starting job in 2005. He made the most of that chance, going 10-3 and leading the Bulldogs to the 2005 SEC title. His career ended on a somewhat sour note as Georgia fell 38-35 to West Virginia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

Brent Rawls – the star recruit from QB factory Evangel Christian (Shreveport, LA) actually never started a game for Oklahoma. He initially beat out Jason White for the starting job in the spring of 2003 before a series of injuries and self-inflicted mishaps caused the Sooner coaches to perform an about-face. He then transferred to Louisiana Tech in September 2003 but was ruled academically ineligible for the 2004 season.

Ingle Martin – Martin signed with Florida and served as a capable backup to Rex Grossman during the 2002 season. He then started the first four games of the 2003 season before true freshman Chris Leak took the reins of the Gators’ offense. Martin wound up transferring to Furman in January 2004.

Next, let’s look at the team from 2001:

Vince Young – this is a case where the recruiting gurus actually got one right. Young’s well-chronicled accomplishments at Texas included an astounding 30-2 record as a starter. After beating Michigan 38-37 in the 2005 Rose Bowl, he led the Longhorns on a march back to Pasadena during the following season. Young inspired Texas to the 2005 Big 12 title before unleashing a mind-boggling performance to beat USC 41-38 in the 2006 Rose Bowl, capturing the Longhorns’ first national title in 35 years.

Ben Olson – after signing on the dotted line with BYU, he redshirted the 2002 season before going on a two-year Mormon mission. After returning from his mission trip, he transferred to UCLA in the spring of 2005, having never played a down for the Cougars.

Trent Edwards – he redshirted the 2002 season with Stanford before starting four games in the 2003 season, backing up Chris Lewis for the rest of the year. He then started for the Cardinal from 2004-06, compiling a 10-24 record. Edwards never led Stanford to a winning record during his three years at the helm of their offense.

Reggie McNeal – he started for Texas A&M from 2003-05, compiling a 16-19 record along the way. McNeal’s high-water mark came in the 2004 season, when he led the Aggies to a 7-5 record, which culminated in a 38-7 humiliation at the hands of Tennessee in the 2005 Cotton Bowl. That turned out to be the only bowl game for A&M during McNeal’s time in College Station.

Now let’s look at the team from 2002:

Chris Leak – this is another case where the recruiting gurus actually got it right, though like Young, there were some growing pains along the way. Leak ended up starting during all four years of his Florida career, and the Gators went 37-14 from 2003-06. Leak teamed up with star freshman Tim Tebow to win both the 2006 SEC title and the 2007 BCS Championship Game. In the latter matchup, Leak led the Gators to a 41-14 crushing of Ohio State, delivering their first national title in 10 years.

Kyle Wright – he signed on the dotted line with Miami and redshirted the 2003 season. After backing up Brock Berlin during the 2004 season, he started for the Hurricanes from 2005-07 and led them to a 21-16 record. Along the way, he briefly lost his starting job to Kirby Freeman at the outset of the 2007 season.

Robert Lane – this touted recruit pulled off a Signing Day switcheroo and ended up with Ole Miss instead of LSU. Oddly enough, he played multiple positions and only started one game at QB during his Rebels career. He finally settled in at tight end and started every game there during his senior season.

JaMarcus Russell – Russell signed with LSU and redshirted the 2003 season before backing up Marcus Randall during the 2004 season. He then started for the Tigers from 2005-06, leading them to a 22-4 record. Russell led LSU to the 2005 SEC West title and then sparked them to a 41-14 beatdown of Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

Finally, let’s look at the team from 2003:

Rhett Bomar – things started off very promisingly for Bomar at Oklahoma, as he led the Sooners to an 8-4 record in the 2005 season. Then things went south very quickly thanks to a notorious car dealership scandal that I won’t get into here. He transferred to Sam Houston State in the fall of 2006.

Chad Henne – Henne actually started during all four years of his Michigan career as he led the Maize and Blue to a 36-14 record from 2004-07. His true freshman season was actually remarkably successful as the Wolverines went 9-3, shared the Big Ten title with Iowa and lost 38-37 to Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Henne also led Michigan to the 2007 Rose Bowl, where they were pasted 32-18 by USC. He also had some trouble beating Ohio State during his time in Ann Arbor, going 0-4 against the Buckeyes.

Xavier Lee – this multidimensional threat actually only started 6 games during his Florida State career, going 2-4 in the process. Perhaps he was a victim of poor coaching/player development on the part of Jeff Bowden, or maybe he was somewhat overrated. He ended up declaring early for the 2008 NFL Draft.

Anthony Morelli – his signing with Penn State sent the Nittany Lion faithful into a frenzy. After sitting behind Michael Robinson, he started in 2006-07 and led Penn State to a combined 18-8 record (with identical 9-4 records in both seasons).

The overall results were quite eye-opening. Of the 15 quarterbacks who actually played college football, only two of them (Young and Leak) started for national title-winning teams. Two others (Shockley and Henne) won or shared conference championships as a starting QB, and a third (Russell) started for a BCS bowl-winning team. The rest had either solid careers, mediocre careers or completely flamed out.

Based on these results, here are what I think constitute reasonable expectations for a star QB recruit. If the recruit starts for two seasons and his team goes to a bowl in each season, that should satisfy his fan base. Anything on top of that (BCS bowl berth, conference championship, or national title, let alone multiple national titles) is just gravy.

Hopefully rabid college fans will remember that quite a few factors go into winning a national title, including good player development, strong offensive line/defensive line play, luck, etc.