While I completely agree with Optimist Prime’s main point that these types of pre-season honors do not really matter, it became clear to the editorial staff here at TSD that a great many fans do in fact care deeply about a freshman being allowed to appear on a pre-season All-American team.
Before diving into the arguments I do want to call attention to one point from Optimist Prime that I vehemently oppose. The notion that basketball is an individual game is flat wrong. It is true that the individual nature of the reward we’re debating today is inescapable, but the irony lies in the fact that the sport – especially at the collegiate level – relies heavily on team achievement, and much less on the abilities of a single player. Team’s have a hierarchy of talent, but college basketball isn’t great because each team is just a disjointed conglomeration of individual talent. Successful teams work together flawlessly, and the vast majority of championship teams prove that out.
As Optimist points out, in total fairness, the freshman did not appoint himself to the team. Rather, a membership group of sports media elite did that. That is not the player’s fault. It is, however, proof that the “award” is ridiculous. Fair point, Optimist Prime.
But, regardless of the award’s fairness from a media standpoint, it is counter-intuitive – and it should be counter-culture – to lavish anyone with awards and esteem who has done nothing to earn it. Barnes may become a great college player, but it’s impossible to agree that he would then, retroactively, deserve the pre-season All-American team honors as a freshman. Freshmen have not proven anything on the court in a college atmosphere, a fair and acknowledged point from Loyal Homer.
If the purpose of the award is to give the nod to players who show tremendous potential, then have a freshmen All-American team (which does exist). But, and the winning arguer Loyal Homer so succinctly stated, to include a freshman in the overall pre-season All-American cheapens the entire team.
Sure, I understand the game of college basketball has evolved. Freshman now rule the roost in part because an early departure for the elite players is now standard practice. But NBA draft prospects are completely different that All-American honors. There was a simpler time when professional prospect didn’t influence a college player’s perception at all. The All-American award harkens a simpler, more pure time in sports, and giving a freshman the nod for is a deep and irreversible stain.
Maybe this Sports Geek is old school, but whatever happened to earning an award? With respect to Optimist’s argument that Barnes has been evaluated at countless camps in the off-season and AAU environments over the course of his prep career, Barnes hasn’t won a game with a last minute shot in Cameron Indoor. He hasn’t gone on the road in Little John Arena and beaten a pesky Clemson club in conference with a tough road game. He hasn’t proven his mettle in a conference tournament or propelled his team to a berth in the NCAA Tournament. He may appear to have the pedigree to accomplish those feats, but let’s ease up on the praise and awards until he proves worthy. It might be old fashioned, but it’s also the right thing.