It's getting close, everybody. The 2012 NBA Draft. It is the first day to be truly excited about this off-season. And now that the dust has settled from the finals (oh, who am I kidding? The dust is far from settled. LeBron hasn't received 10,000 hours of ESPN airtime yet), the collective conscience of the NBA is shifting. We're all blankly staring into our computer screens like automatons, waiting with bated breath to see the latest draft news, trying to figure out who Portland might be seeking. And no matter which mock drafts you look at, you tend to see the same few names pop up for Portland: Drummond, Rivers, Lillard, Waiters, Lamb, Beal, and Barnes. The player with the most cache out of that group is Damian Lillard. He is being touted here in Rip City similarly to how Kenneth Faried was last year. It just feels like rosy destiny that Lillard will be in a Blazer uniform, similarly to the way it felt certain that Faried was going to be in a Blazer uniform (although it didn't turn out that way)
Now, Lillard comes out of college with a lot of flaws: he's a shoot first, ask questions later point guard, he is undersized, he doesn't have top-notch court vision, and he doesn't have an NBA body yet. Despite all of that there is one knock that people love to employ in order to discredit Lillard that I feel is trite B.S., and that is "He played at Weber State". That criticism drives me up a brick wall and makes me repeatedly slam my head against it. Criticizing someone for playing at a small school is extremely
short sighted and inconsiderate. It annoys me enough that I could get banned from The Bloggers Network for profanity and verbal assault if I weren't in a good mood today.
Lillard is a human (duh) and smart one at that (double duh). So why should we care that he played at Weber State? Competition? Do double and triple teams every night not count as "competition"? Do you know that Lillard actually received offers from Pac-12 schools like Washington State? Isn't that worth something? Lillard's decision to play in Ogden could've very easily been personally driven and not competitively driven. To me, it seems like the critics believe that personal choice has no bearing on where someone goes to college and that it's a 100% talent-based operation. To those people it is: "If you're good at all, then you play at Kentucky, because ALL good players play at Kentucky, and the players who don't play at Kentucky are bad players because they don't play at Kentucky... Kentucky".
Now, I admit, my example was hyperbolic, but that is how the critics can come off. If you're not from a power-conference school, then you must have something wrong with your game; it cannot be because the player simply preferred another atmosphere.
For the purposes of proving a point (and being mean), let me beat you over the head with just a few
examples of players who weren't from power-conference schools: Gary Neal (Towson), Chris Kaman (Central Michigan), Kevin Martin (Western Carolina), Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky), Marcus Camby (UMass), Earl Boykins (Eastern Michigan), and Jason Thompson (Rider).
What!? Not good enough? Okay.
Steve Nash (Santa Clara), Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech), Jeremy Evans (Western Kentucky), Raja Bell (Florida International), Derek Fisher (University of Arkansas-Little Rock) and JJ Barea (Northeastern).
need more? Really?
Kenneth Faried (Moorehead State), Norris Cole (Cleveland State), George Hill (IUPUI), Ben Wallace (Virginia Union), Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington), Kyle Korver (Creighton), and Jeremy Lin (Harvard)
Are we done here? Good, cause I had more.
By the way, that entire list is comprised of players who are currently active
. I didn't even delve into historic small-school sensations.
So can we put this Lillard-Weber State prejudice to rest? Is Weber State a hotbed for NBA talent? No. But there are multiple power-conference schools that aren't either (who was your favorite player to come out of Northwestern? That's what I thought). Is Damian Lillard the second coming of Derek Rose? Probably not. Are there flaws in his game? Certainly. But if Lillard doesn't live up to expectations, it will be because he couldn't overcome the shortcomings in his game, or he got injured, or he never fit in well with his team. It will not be because he was a "talentless scrub from Weber State".