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Friday, June 27, 2008

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Posted By on 06.27.08 at 11:01 AM

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I won't say whether I think the Bulls choosing Derrick Rose #1 last night (over the gifted scorer Michael Beasley) is a good move, because I'm so biased towards smart, unselfish point guards that if I said it was the right pick you couldn't trust it. But this is the kind of thing to get me interested in basketball again. (The video below is Rose just manhandling HS basketball powerhouse Oak Hill.)

Which reminds me: one of the most profound experiences I've ever had was the time I saw Oak Hill play in person. They were also at that time the best high school team in the country, and were probably much better than the team Rose beat, with one future NBA all-star who was being talked about as the next Jordan (Jerry Stackhouse), one future NBA journeyman (Jeff McInnis), and another guy who briefly played in the NBA (the name escapes me, but he was a center at Wake Forest, I think, or maybe UNLV).

Southwest Virginia isn't really known as a hotbed of basketball action--the only NBA players to come out of Roanoke that I'm aware of are George Lynch, who had a long and decent NBA career, and J.J. Redick, the Duke star who hasn't yet turned into the John Paxson 2.0 everyone expected. The best local player I ever saw, Bobby Prince, went on to set some assist records at VMI, but never sniffed the pros. In my foggy middle-school mind I thought Prince, a scrubby little point guard, wasn't that much better than me, which meant I had to be okay (I got recruited by an AAU team, but ended up going to a high school without a basketball team).

Turns out I had no idea what being good at basketball actually meant, even though I'd been to pro and college games. Oak Hill wiped the floor with William Fleming (Lynch's old team and usually the best team in the region). I can't remember how much they beat Fleming by, but they could have beaten them by as much as they chose to. I'd never really seen anything like it, and I realized that I didn't understand the first thing about basketball.

If you ever get the chance, even if you don't like sports all that much, it's worth catching players like Rose in a high school game, because even though they're still green it's the best place to see greatness in context. In the NBA, almost everyone's actually great at basketball, so the greatness can be harder to appreciate. In high school, you can actually watch people who are among the best in the world at what they do along side fairly typical human beings. And I can't really think of another venue in almost any other pursuit where you can see how stark the difference really is between the greatness we look to and the mediocrity most of us are actually stuck in.

So I'll be watching Rose, but I'll also be looking for the next Rose, just to keep things in context. 

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