Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Many sports fans have excitedly picked up their pre-season football, basketball, baseball, or hockey preview magazines, flipped to the section detailing their team, and done a little fist pumping when they read, “Team X’s Star Player Y is positioned for a breakout year. He is the Mid-Atlantic Culinary School Association’s pre-season player of the year.”
That same fan then sees star player Y fulfill that promise, or even drag his shiny pre-season player of the year trophy to the bench, halfway through the season. Indeed, it seems like the latter happens far more than the former. Having been in the shoes of those fans, I feel like I can legitimately argue that a freshman should be eligible for consideration for pre-season All-American honors because, honestly, do they really matter that much? As a bonus, I’ll also have an argument for those of you who do think pre-season All-American honors do matter. In order to keep things brief, we’ll consider only the basketball award during this debate.
First, let’s consider the meat of what a pre-season All-American team “invitation,” even a notable one such as the Associated Press, actually means. Typically these awards end up as footnotes on a player’s career, or bullet points on a television broadcast of their team’s games during the season. The player does not receive monetary compensation for this award and it does not entitle him to anything other than being an answer to a trivia question after his playing days conclude. If you agree that the AP All-America team is the most prestigious pre-season All-American team, factor in that the voting is done by the same 65-member national media panel that votes on the AP top 25 poll each week. The award is not a validation by your peers, your competitors, your coaches, other coaches, etc. It is simply a tip of the cap from people who cover your sport for a living. While that is, without a doubt, a nice accomplishment and a feather in a player’s cap, it seems completely unreasonable to keep freshmen from having the pleasure of reading online, “These reporters think I’m going to be one of the top players in the country this year.” Freshmen in the running for an All-American “invite” will have heard their name countless times in countless mediums – why prevent them from receiving a slightly more prestigious, slightly more official honor?
Second, as promised, if you think a pre-season All-American acknowledgement is a meaningful, worthwhile award, why would you deny sportswriters the ability to bestow that honor on any player they so choose? While I’m not saying Harrison Barnes or Brandon Knight, at this very moment, belong in the same mention as Tyler Hansbrough or John Wall, who’s to say that a majority of sportswriters do want to say that? I cannot think of a reason to deny those professional basketball watchers/writers that ability unless we go back to the days when freshmen could not play on the varsity team. Moreover, if the argument is that you cannot legitimately evaluate a player’s game until he plays at the college level, I can respect that argument while debunking it at the same time. While there is no doubt that the college game is different, modern freshmen have been evaluated for years at shoe camps, AAU tournaments, pickup games, etc. Their individual game is not a mystery and an All-American honor is just that – an individual honor for their individual game.
If the freshmen are used in the marketing and promotion of college basketball, why deny them the opportunity at a pat on the back before the season starts?