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Star Making Machinery

College recruiting will never cease to amaze us. The only funnier thing
is the NBA draft, where teams puff players up so that more gullible teams will
want them, and then on draft day, you see the long faces as the real targets are
revealed. It works both ways, of course: a team will talk down a player to try
and get him to fall down the draft. The sad part is the young kids who
believe it all and then sit alone and wonder how bad they just screwed up their

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Anyway, college recruiting has a similar pattern. Guys get built
up and torn down because, essentially, it's something to talk about.
Fifteen-year-old kids start getting puffed up and then when they're 17, they're
toast. Or alternatively, kids get totally missed and then blown up to be
the second coming.

Anyway, welcome to Shavlik Randolph's summer.

amazing to us that on the one hand, this guy in the season was getting a huge
build-up, drawing 12,000 people (including DBR) to Reynolds, but now he's a
nobody. That's overstating it of course. But clearly the recruiting
guys have moved on. And to be fair, they have to. It's hard to keep
talking about the same things and then expect people to keep reading it (trust
us on that one), and you can draw readers by saying "gee, this guy is
better now, but this guy might be better, and what about that guy over
there?" It's sort of a shell game for rubes, like, unfortunately,

Not that we're suggesting anyone is deliberately doing this.
We know Mike Sullivan and Dave Telep and Clint Jackson, and we have e-mailed
with various other gurus, and invariably, they are all nice, decent people who
have a burning passion for what they do. So the totally natural thing is
to keep looking, sifting, analyzing. It's who they are, and we're all
grateful for that.

Nonetheless, the premium is on new information, new
analyses, and fresh information, and that more or less requires re-analyzing
people periodically, and rankings, which we hate, are part of the game.

where does that leave Shavlik Randolph?

Pretty much exactly where he was when
the year began: an unusually skilled big man who works harder on his
fundamentals than probably any prominent high school player, and certainly any
big man in high school.

While people might rank Amare Stoudamire higher, or
get more excited about whoever the flavor of the month is, the bottom line
is this: Shavlik Randolph has mastered the fundamentals of the game.
Whether you are talking about shooting, free throws, dribbling, passing,
driving, boxing out, seeing a pass ahead, defensive footwork, the kid has put
hours into mastering the sport, and he's pretty much done it. We could
care less if he doesn't dunk like Amare Stoudamire, or run like Kwame Brown.
Neither did Larry Bird, or John Havlicek, or Oscar Robertson, or any number of
players, including previous Broughton star Pete Maravich. And, we might add,
Mike Dunleavy.

Today, that makes Shavlik Randolph an anomaly in the game, and, we might add, puts him in a position to become an unusually dominant college player.

It's important to keep in mind that Randolph played with
injuries all summer, possibly aggravated by the heavy number of games the camps
schedule. It's also important to remember that after all the hype, then
the anti-hype, the kid understands the physics of the game. As Bird
proved, if you can run the physics on the fly, you can own the court.

And it's
also important to realize that at the other end of they hype is a kid who just
likes to play ball. Let's hope the hype doesn't take the fun out of it,
because playing basketball very well is a joy which is outranked by only a
handful of things in life.

Let's look at some of the gurus comments on Shavlik.
Keep these and refer to them later to see who missed the boat.

  • Dave Telep - "Hindsight is 20-20, and (dropping
    him to #9 nationally) is probably a little low. Shav is obviously going to have a good college career and will play in the NBA."
  • Stickdog at the Big Time - The Raleigh Heat hasn't been looking for
    Shav particularly, but this has ironically helped his team’s play. Shav is
    still slowed by his injury and he appeared to injure his ankle further
    during play this morning. He seemed frustrated with his play at times, and
    he has short-armed a few of his close range attempts that he usually would
    be flushing home. However, he has still averaged around 15 points, 10
    rebounds and 4 assists and 3 blocks a game, and he has shown his handling
    skills, defensive awareness, court sense, post move and scoring touch,
    albeit in a supporting role to Matt Walsh and Michael Thompson. His team
    seems to play much better with him on the floor than when he is out of the
    game, and they have gone 4-0 (2-0 without Thompson) against tough
    competition, so he is obviously doing something right. Opposing players are
    still keying on him and trying to beat him up, so using him to get good
    opportunities for his teammates (rather than always trying to force the
    issue himself) has been a very effective strategy.
  • Frank Burlison - Randolph is still hobbled a bit by an injury to
    his left foot that forced him off the court for about three weeks in June.
    He’s not nearly as quick or as explosive (vertically) as he looked last
    summer or during his junior season. That’s the biggest reason why
    Randolph, rated by some scouting services as the No. 1 prospect in the class
    of 2002 before this month, has been the target of some nit-picking by some
    recruiting “experts”.
  • Stickdog at Nike - Shavlik was obviously hurting, and he didn’t
    have the dominant camp that some predicted he would. In spite of this, it
    was very easy to see just how good this guy can be. Let me get his
    weaknesses out of the way. Shav obviously needs to get much stronger. He
    must practice converting in heavy traffic and when he’s being fouled.
    He’s got to get after it on the boards with a little more intensity, and
    he needs to use his sweet stroke to set up his pretty drives to the hoop.
    But don’t get the idea that Randolph is a poor finisher, rebounder or
    shooter, because he’s anything but. I could go on all day about what I
    like about Randolph but it really comes down to one word: skills.
    Randolph’s got skills like San Francisco has hills, Latin America has
    bills and Republicans have Wills. And that might be an understatement,
  • Clint Jackson at the Peach Jam- Hey, not a bad first game for
    Randolph. He started off the game getting less touches than normal, but
    asserted himself rather nicely after the first time out. He schooled Texas
    big man Aljou Kane on a sweet array of fakes and got the three-point-play,
    swished a couple of 14 foot jumpers and gathered about five blocked shots in
    the lane against the physical Texas team. Our stats had him ending with 23
    points, 10 rebounds and three assists to go with the five blocks. Again,
    Randolph was still a bit injured -- but played well considering his athletic
    ability was obviously limited due to his ankle.
  • Ben Sherman - After scoring 23 points in a morning loss to Team
    Texas, Randolph faced off against Williams, guarding him for most of the
    game. Randolph was clearly still bothered by his injured ankle, with a
    slight limp and unable to jump -- and he was noticeably frustrated by the
    condition (didn't even come close to cracking a smile from tipoff to the
    final buzzer). Despite all this, he still had 20 points, seven rebounds and
    at least four blocks - a true testament to his skills and mental approach to
    the game.
  • Mike Sullivan - We know certain high schoolers who are seeing their
    stock drop. It's no surprise. Most of these kids can barely make a low post
    offensive move. How can we be so sure? Heck, the NBA scouts told us.
    The "local media" of North Carolina have rightly suggested that
    Randolph is a fine player. He’s certainly a candidate for the McDonald's
    All American game. In fact, one particular official was gushing all over him
    after the Slam Jam at Broughton High School last March.
    But many times in our business the temptation is too great and – present
    company included -- we “hype” a player. Yes, folks, it's done. And in
    Randolph's case it may do much more harm than good. The basketball world is
    littered with players that never lived up to the "hype."
    This is not to suggest that Randolph will end up being one of these players.
    However, Randolph, a 17-year-old forward, has been elevated to god-like
    status in the North Carolina area, much like Felipe Lopez when he played for
    Rice High School and then at St. John's. This kind of pressure is unfair to
    Randolph, and to any other player for that matter.