The night that Michael Beasley played in a Minneapolis pro-am league two years ago was memorable for a few reasons.
Beasley, then a standout for the Minnesota Timberwolves, pulled up to the gym in a monster truck. I'm not even sure it’s legal to have wheels and rims that large.
He also arrived with a posse that included one member who was only responsible for giving Beasley his Gatorade bottle whenever he called for it. You’ve clearly made it when you’ve added a Gatorade guy to your entourage.
For most of the game, Beasley gave a minimal effort. So it appeared that the Division III athletes who were on the floor with him were at his level. He turned it on late and played like a former lottery pick and dominant collegiate player. But there were certainly moments where the gap between Beasley and everyone else seemed small.
That obviously wasn’t the case. But the run-and-gun, loose style of many pro-am leagues can turn anyone into a superstar. And we all know that one juke, one crossover or one dunk can create myths and legends of average players and athletes with limited skill sets.
I feel the same way about college players who excel during international trips. So you just scored 30 points against a team featuring a bunch of Jamaican standouts.
What does that mean?
I’m not completely discrediting the efforts. But I think it’s easy -- and unwise -- to make false assumptions about players who play well in offseason competitions.
I usually temper my excitement whenever I hear about the kid who’s “killing it in this pro-am league.” Maybe he’ll be a college basketball star in the near future. Maybe he’ll be lost when his coach asks him to run a motion offense against a 2-3 zone. You just never know how that will translate.
And if a player is a beast during an offseason trip months before the real season begins, does that guarantee anything?
Check this out from the Washington Post’s Alex Pruitt (who is not making any assumptions) on Maryland’s recent outing in the Bahamas:
Unearthing full box scores from the Maryland men’s basketball team’s three exhibition games in the Bahamas this week might be difficult. The live stats feed froze with 4:10 left in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s opener, but highlights began to trickle out this morning, in news release form.
Rising sophomore Jake Layman led the Terrapins with a team-high 25 points, pacing Maryland in its foreign tour opener to a 92-84 win over the Bahamas All-Stars in Nassau.
“We played hard the entire game,” Coach Mark Turgeon said in the release. “It was a good challenge for our team because we saw a lot of different defenses — zone, man-to-man and full-court pressure. They tried to keep us off balance, so it was a good test for us.”
Four other Terps scored in double figures, according to the release. Transfer Evan Smotrycz, expected to give Maryland a sizable spacing boost with his three-point shooting since coming over from Michigan, had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Dez Wells became a one-man GIF with his earth-shattering dunks (see the embedded highlights below), finished with 22 points and nine rebounds …”
I think this is a good experience for Maryland and the other teams that have taken international trips this offseason.
They’re great for chemistry. They’re great for coaches who want to know what they’ll have entering the season. They’re great for team bonding.
But I also think it’s dangerous to comprise projections according to anything you hear or see during the offseason.
Sure, the freshman standout in your local pro-am might be a stud in a few months. But the structure and competition of regulated college basketball are usually different than anything that occurs in the months after the Final Four and before the season starts in November.
Once the 2013-14 season starts, we’ll find out what’s real and what’s fake.