You know what’s weird? Holidays that fall on actual dates. Let’s fix that. Thanksgiving is always a Thursday. It guarantees us a four-day weekend. Let’s call it Independence Day and make it the first Thursday of July and guarantee ourselves the same.
OK, that’s it for me this week. Ken Zalis is coming up next. Thanks for tuning in.
So ANOTHER thing that’s weird is how we often respond to the news of a college basketball player choosing to turn pro by saying something along the lines of “I’m not sure if he made the right decision” or “I think he might regret that decision” or “I hope he isn’t getting bad advice.” It’s weird because we never say those things when a player decides to return to school. If returning to school is the only decision that’s truly impervious to regret, why do college players ever leave?
Aaron Wiggins is leaving the University of Maryland to play professional basketball. Is it the “right” decision? What a comically misguided question. It is certainly possible that Wiggins will have made a decision that proves to be quite obviously correct by going early in the NBA Draft and having tremendous success early in his career.
Outside of that, we’re trying to fathom an equation that measures whether someone’s total professional success or lack thereof compares to a hypothetical amount of success they could have had in another collegiate season from an individual and/or team perspective, what that additional year might mean for their draft status and preparedness for a professional career whilst also acknowledging at least some amount of risk.
Solve for Y. Please. Because I sure as hell can’t.
It’s probably safe to assume that Wiggins got enough feedback that he’s confident he’ll be drafted. He might even be confident about where he’ll be drafted. He also knows that in the 2020 NBA Draft, there wasn’t a college senior selected until the 26th pick and that in the last three drafts combined, there has been just one college senior selected as a lottery pick (Cameron Johnson in 2019). So he’s probably convinced that there’s a cap to just how much another year of development could change his draft stock.
Does that make his decision the “right” decision? Again, what the hell does that even mean? What would make it the “wrong” one? If he doesn’t work out long-term in the NBA? Nik Caner-Medley (yes, the “you can’t beat me” guy) has never played an NBA game in his life. But as he prepares to turn 38, he’s STILL playing professional basketball in France and estimated a year ago that he had made about $7 million playing pro hoops.
So tell me again, what could POSSIBLY make Aaron Wiggins’ decision the wrong one?
Is it possible that he could be missing out on the life-changing experience of winning a NCAA championship with a talented Maryland team? It’s certainly a nonzero chance. Even without the departing Darryl Morsell, Maryland would have been a highly intriguing team with Wiggins next season. And being the top player for a national title team would certainly impact Wiggins’ legacy and brand even if it didn’t directly change his pro hoops reality.
It would have been tough to consider such a title as particularly likely, not just because only one of 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament can win the title but because typically the team that wins the NCAA title is a team that had been threatening to in the years leading up to their title. Baylor, for example, hadn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2012 before winning it all in 2021, but even the Bears were the No. 5-ranked team in the country in the final 2020 AP poll when the season was canceled due to COVID.
But even a deep run in the NCAA Tournament would have been great, right? I mean, this is a program that hasn’t even gotten within a round of the Final Four since their national title in 2002. Being a significant player on a Final Four team would be a big deal, too! Just ask, say, the most significant contributor to a Final Four team in Maryland history (who didn’t also win a national championship), Terence Morris! What an icon he is around here!
(Full disclosure: the author once owned a Terence Morris jersey as a child. But still.)
And that’s really what this is about, right? We’re asking if Wiggins made the “right decision” because we don’t think it’s the right decision for us. We thought Maryland was shaping up to have a potentially special team with Eric Ayala already back and two impact transfers (Qudus Wahab and Fatts Russell) in the fold. So with Wiggins not being a surefire lottery pick like Jalen Smith a year ago, we wanted to believe that MAYBE Wiggins would be in love with the idea of pursuing a Final Four as much as we are.
But he’s got a little more at stake personally than we do.
So yeah, Wiggins almost certainly made the “right” decision. It’s pretty hard to fathom how it might possibly not be.
And as disappointing as his departure is to Maryland fans, it cannot be an “excuse” for another season that fails to meet expectations. This is how the sport works. Good players leave early. Their production must be replaced quickly. You don’t get to hang a banner for “might have done something special had no one from the previous year’s team wanted to play in the NBA.” Maryland picked up some transfers and lost players to transfer and the pros. That’s the way the college basketball offseason works. Now you have to go develop and coach up the players and try to go do something special with the group you have.
There’s 17 million reasons why “losing a good player to the pros” should be no excuse.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox