April 8, 2005
I was totally shocked when I saw that Kentucky's Kelenna Azubuike decided to enter the NBA draft and hire an agent, meaning he is finished with his college basketball career.
I think of Azubuike and the potential of the Wildcats next season he would have been a star on a top-three squad in my preseason Dazzling Dozen. His move is stunning.
Kentucky has a lot of young talent, with point guard Rajon Rondo and big man Randolph Morris each ready to enter their second season with the blue and white. This club has a chance to be dynamite, and the 6-foot-5 Azubuike had the opportunity to be dynamite, a vital factor with his scoring prowess.
|Azubuike went from Kentucky hero to undrafted free agent.|
When you evaluate his game and check with many NBA people, he's looking at second round, baby, and no guaranteed first-round dollars. You bust your gut and hope and pray you make a roster.
A second-round choice has the potential to become a basketball vagabond. Go ask Marcus Taylor of Michigan State about his decision to go out early. What about Omar Cook of St. John's or Rod Grizzard of Alabama, to name a few?
Let's analyze what happened to two former Kentucky players, guys who stood the test of time and played in Lexington for four years.
Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans developed in coach Tubby Smith's system and each became vital factors who increased their star power.
Azubuike averaged less than 15 ppg for the Wildcats this past season. You wonder if his decision is based more on family need, since his father was recently sentenced to prison for four years on fraud charges. His dad also owes over $300,000 in restitution.
Maybe all of those factors weighed on Kelenna's mind. If they did, one has compassion for him. Either way, it surely was not a wise basketball decision.
He's putting himself in a position where he could bounce from one lesser league to another. Azubuike could have worn one of the great uniforms of all time, Kentucky, next season. The love the fans have for their blue and white is so special, yet the young man is giving it all up ... well, it's all rhetoric now since he signed with an agent, ending his collegiate eligibility.
Oh my, I wish he would have listened to the right people, led by his coach, Tubby Smith. Azubuike jumped the gun so quickly. If he wanted to test the market, so be it, and you respect that but wait to see what your stock value is.
But he jumped in, and now it's too late.
This won't change one thing Kentucky basketball will continue to be one of the premier programs in America. The name Kentucky won't change, nor will the success of the basketball program.
This opens the door for Joe Crawford to become the star people projected when he came out of high school. Crawford has an ample opportunity now to give the 'Cats the kind of scoring they'll need from that small-forward slot.
Remember what they say about life luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The harder I work, the luckier I get! Mr. Crawford now has a chance to take advantage of a golden opportunity, to become one of the premier Wildcats.
Let's see what happens in the future. I know one thing, Tubby Smith will have a winner again!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.