Steven Downs asked me the other day what I thought about his son, Micah. He has been asking a lot of people that question lately, and my guess is that he'll continue with the inquiries...
Steven Downs asked me the other day what I thought about his son, Micah.
He has been asking a lot of people that question lately, and my guess is that he’ll continue with the inquiries until he hears what he wants to hear.
As I sat next to him inside a Mercer Island gym, I told him I was impressed with Micah’s basketball skills. The kid has big-time hops, handles and range. Even against less-than-stellar competition, that much was apparent.
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Micah is long, lean and explosive. He has a quick-release jump shot that’s extremely accurate from mid-range, but tends to miss the mark when released outside of the three-point arc.
Steven Downs smiled when I told him this.
We talked about Micah’s intentions to play in the NBA next year, even though he signed with the University of Kansas last month. At that point, I said what I normally say when the conversation shifts to prepsters trying to make the leap to the pros.
I believe they should attend college. There was a time when I thought they should graduate from college, but I’ve modified those beliefs.
For players with ability like Micah, a year or two of schooling is about all that you can reasonably expect.
Steven Downs didn’t smile when I told him this.
I told him he should talk to Bruce Swift, whose son, Robert, was in a similar position last year.
Robert Swift was a high-school phenom in Bakersfield, Calif., with a scholarship to USC.
About this time last year, Bruce Swift began putting into motion a plan that led to his son being selected 12th overall by the Sonics in last summer’s NBA draft.
The noticeable difference between Robert and Micah is 4 inches of height. NBA general managers are more apt to take a gamble on a 7-foot center like Swift than they are a 6-8 forward like Downs, no matter how skilled he is.
Still, Bruce Swift had a plan. He scoured the Internet for information about basketball camps, agents and NBA teams. He aligned with a small group of influential basketball power brokers and placed trust in a scheme, which didn’t allow Robert to participate in predraft workouts, that seemed idiotic at the time.
“You’re going to have a lot of people giving you advice and telling you that you’re not going to make it or that you are going to make it,” Robert Swift said. “Everybody is going to have an opinion. You have to stay strong and believe in yourself.”
It’s difficult to argue that Swift made the wrong choice in choosing the NBA over the Trojans. He’s played 28 minutes in eight games this season and has scored a total of just three points.
But by all accounts, he’s improving in practice and the limited workouts before games. And he’s doing it while the Sonics are paying him a $1.4 million salary that allowed him to give his parents a pair of SUVs for Christmas and live in a luxurious manner.
“I’m having the time of my life, coming in here and playing with the best players in the world everyday,” Swift said. “Basically, I’m getting paid to have fun. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication you have to give, but it’s fun. It’s a game.”
There’s no guarantee that if Swift had attended USC, which recently fired coach Henry Bibby, that he would be any better off.
And there’s no guarantee that the eight high-schoolers taken in last year’s draft will ever develop into the next LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady.
In fact, it’s a good bet that anyone who skips college and enters the NBA will spend the bulk of their rookie season on the bench much like Miami’s Dorell Wright, New Orleans’ J.R. Smith, Portland’s Sebastian Telfair and Swift.
But what’s wrong with that?
This is not to suggest that every teenager with a hoop dream should bypass college for the NBA. Far from it. That type of thinking has shattered too many lives. It ruined Lenny Cooke, who went undrafted in 2002, and James Lang, who was taken in the second round in 2003 and spent just one season in the NBA.
The list goes on and on. Three times as many preps-to-pros players have failed than have succeeded.
But Steven Downs doesn’t want to hear that.
I suspect that the people surrounding Martell Webster, the area’s top prep basketball player, are also asking questions these days.
The 6-6 Seattle Prep guard signed with Washington, but that commitment is being tested each time he produces a magnificent outing as he did during last week’s national prep tournament in Florida.
Webster averaged 29.5 points in four games and, in Prep’s final game, he made 9 of 14 three-pointers en route to 33 points.
Soon, we will no doubt hear that Webster wants to “test the waters,” which is what Downs said a few days ago.
Some of us will shake our heads in mock disgust, while others will applaud his decision.
But as Robert Swift said: “People will have their opinions. You have to be strong in your beliefs.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org