I posted this back on April 8. I was on the phone with an AAU coaching friend of mine and he clicked over to take a call from Jordan Hamilton's AAU coach. When my friend clicked back I asked him to ask about Hamilton going to the NBA. His answer to my friend was, yeah, Jordan's gone and Tristan Thompson too, so today's news comes as no surprise.
Say what you want about the state of college basketball today, but this is a smart move by Thompson. This year's draft crop is thin on talent which means Thompson's a lottery pick. It also means that even if Tristan comes back, shows a polished post up game, and a little face up offense, there's still a pretty good chance that he loses ground in the 2012 draft. Not to mention the injury concern. Yeah, one and dones suck for the college fan. I cut my hoops teeth on watching Walter Berry battling Patrick Ewing for years in the Big East era of college basketball. You got to see guys like Chris Mullen, Mark Price, and Hakeem Olajuwon--play as juniors and seniors. Imagine that? Now you have to sweat jags like Avery Bradley and Daniel Gibson going pro. It sucks, but who can blame these cats for getting paid and realizing a lifelong dream? I can't.
As for next year's squad we're going to have to figure out how to win small. It's not really as much of a death sentence as most people would have you believe. Hell mid-majors figure out a way to win this way as a matter of survival. If you want recent examples just look at half of this season's final four. VCU and Butler were pretty small, but the problem is they have two of the game's most innovative young coaches and these gentleman aren't tainted by years of coaching in dogmatic comfort zones.
And getting out of his comfort zone will be Rick Barnes' biggest coaching hurdle next season. In Kabongo, Rick's got a game changing point guard who'll be the headliner for one of the best backcourts in a America. Barnes will also be getting two high IQ swing/3rd guard players in McClellan and Lewis. So his depth on the perimeter should be a strength in a big way in case we're inclined to, oh I don't know, press and run a little bit--assuming Cory Joseph comes back.
If that's not enough motivation to play a more full court style, then a quick glance at the front court should be enough. We have zilch, zero, nada along the baseline in terms of offensive talent and that's, well, offensive. Chapman and Wangmene are your back to the basket stalwarts and freshman power forward Jonathan Holmes isn't quite ready for primetime to be a threat in the paint. So if we choose to play at a Nebraska-like pace, I might off myself or at least my fandom anyway.
In terms of style, Virginia Commonwealth should be Rick's analog for the 2011-2012 squad. Play defense with exuberance and passion, but don't marry your offense to it like Indiana circa 1984. You can play 90 feet, have a wide open perimeter oriented offense, and still guard people. Sure the games will be played in the 80's but that shouldn't matter. At least it didn't matter to Shaka Smart. It shouldn't matter to us because it's our only hope.
As for Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton, I wish them all the luck in the world.