NBA to Wyatt: No league for old men moves

Temple's Khalif Wyatt was undrafted. He is said to have "old-man moves. "YONG KIM / Staff
Temple's Khalif Wyatt was undrafted. He is said to have "old-man moves. "YONG KIM / Staff
Posted: June 30, 2013

I don't know who they are exactly, but my brethren who vote for the Associated Press all-American team blew it this season when they didn't include Temple's Khalif Wyatt on their first- or second- or third- all-American team.

Wyatt carried the Owls into the NCAA tournament. Anybody paying attention saw it, and also saw how, after the AP voting period, Wyatt almost knocked out Indiana, with two future top four picks in this week's NBA draft.

So the NBA blew it too, not drafting Wyatt?

No. . . . Nooooooooo.

Scouts I talked to fully respected Wyatt's game - they got it - but they showed no great excitement about how it would translate to their game. They agreed with the popular wisdom that Wyatt had great "old man moves," which worked so well on North Broad Street.

I talked recently to a personnel pro of 20 years. His thought on Wyatt: "He's not going to be able to get any of those shots off."

He didn't say some shots. He said any.

Temple fans will immediately question this by pointing out Wyatt got most any shot he wanted against Indiana's Victor Oladipo, an alleged terrific defender who just went second in the NBA draft based on his great athleticism.

The point is, Oladipo isn't the NBA gold standard when it comes to playing defense. He just has the athleticism that will allow him to get shots and hold up defensively. When he leaves the court, Oladipo will be replaced by another Oladipo, maybe even a better one. This same personnel man wondered who Wyatt would be able to guard in the league.

In the NBA Finals, there was a player with "old man moves." Manu Ginobili has gotten old before our eyes. And he sure got exposed.

The last Temple player who did get voted all-American, second team, Pepe Sanchez, did get drafted, and hung around several teams, including the Sixers, averaging five minutes a game over his NBA stay. He quickly figured out that his own "old man game," a different kind, with crafty passing and defense, was better suited for Europe, where he made tons of money, in addition to starting for Argentina when it won the 2004 Olympic gold medal.

Another Owls great, Lynn Greer, had toughness and court savvy and superior shooting skills but not the great burst needed for a player his size in the NBA. Greer's stated goal was to make the NBA, and he did after a stop in Europe, but he also saw quickly that being a third-string NBA guard isn't worth as much as being a star overseas.

Villanova's Scottie Reynolds did make all-American, first team, but didn't have a true NBA position, or a defined skill that would get him on the court. He's never played a minute in the league.

People like to argue that it's the NBA that's making the mistakes by choosing athleticism over technical skill. Wrong again. Teams do make mistakes choosing athletes, but it's because they understand the bottom line skills that it takes to make the league, and would rather take chances on athletes, or even big guys who can't play. (Yeah, we mean you, Steven Adams.)

To take the "old man" analogy to the nth-degree: There are technically sound actual old men playing right now at the Y. But nobody would suggest they could hold their own on the court with players such as Wyatt.

Another NBA personnel guy, a respected vet, was in Philly late in the season. From all the Big Five teams, he thought only La Salle's Ramon Galloway had a chance to stick around somebody's camp. He wasn't saying he wanted Galloway, but he saw the minimum requirements there. He didn't see them from anybody else, including all the underclassmen in town. (So FYI, nobody is getting drafted out of the Big Five next year either, unless a player just showing up out of high school turns out to be NBA material.)

There's nothing wrong with dreaming, but Carl Jones and C.J. Aiken from St. Joe's were doing exactly that when they wondered if they would be drafted. Aiken obviously has skills that can't be taught or bought, but he didn't show them nearly enough on Hawk Hill this season, or show the necessary fire on the court, to make him a serious draft candidate.

On Friday, the Sixers signed Wyatt to their summer league team in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas signed him to their summer team in Las Vegas. Aiken will play for Sacramento's summer league team. Galloway signed with Denver's summer team, Conestoga-product Jake Cohen (Davidson) will play the summer with Phoenix and Strawberry Mansion's Dwayne Davis (Southern Mississippi) signed with Golden State's summer team.

But summer leagues aren't the NBA. Nor is this NBA or bust for these guys.

Colleague Keith Pompey put it well this season when we were talking about local draft prospects. "If you're debating whether somebody is good enough, they're probably not," Pompey said.

Exactly right. There's another basketball line that also applies every year around this time: There's a country for everyone.

The guys who understand that sentiment isn't a knock on their abilities can have long and lucrative careers. It's the NBA-or-bust guys who have the most trouble. Maybe nobody grows up dreaming about playing for BC Azovmash in Ukraine, where Greer played this year - but making several million dollars a year, far above the NBA minimum, sounds like the stuff of dreams.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow @jensenoffcampus on Twitter

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