Tag Archives: SEC Men’s Basketball

Reactions to college basketball conference awards

Where I agree:

  • ACC Coach of the Year-Jim Larrañaga-University of Miami: The U was projected fourth in the ACC preseason coaches poll and the Hurricanes did not receive a single first place vote. Larrañaga led a Miami team with four fifth-year seniors and a flashy sophomore point guard to the school’s first ACC Championship. The Hurricanes were ranked as high as second in the country and will likely be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  • Big Ten Player of the Year-Trey Burke-University of Michigan: The Big Ten POY race came down to two players–Burke and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. There wasn’t a wrong choice but I think that the Michigan sophomore was more deserving. Trey Burke averaged 19.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season and had a strong finish to Michigan’s Big Ten schedule by scoring at least 20 points in five of the team’s final six games. He won the game against Michigan State by picking Keith Appling’s pocket in the final 30 seconds and giving Michigan a two-point advantage with a dunk at the other end; he makes Michigan go. While Burke’s efficiency isn’t ideal (20 points on 20 shots and 25 points on 24 shots against Indiana, 19 points on 21 shots against Wisconsin, 19 points on 19 shots against Illinois, etc.), he gets the job done. Both Oladipo and Burke have talented running mates but Indiana has more depth and offensive weapons, including the preseason national player of the year in sophomore center Cody Zeller.
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of www.freep.com)
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of http://www.freep.com)
  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-Victor Oladipo-Indiana University: Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is probably the best on-the-ball defender in the country and he showed the Hoosiers his peskiness on March 5 when he led the Buckeye defensive effort that resulted in 12 Indiana turnovers. However, Oladipo is a more versatile defender. Oladipo can lock down almost any player from a point guard to a power forward. He has had multiple 20+ deflection games this season and has 69 steals (Craft has 60, for a point of comparison). There was no way that Victor Oladipo was going to go home empty handed on both the Big Ten POY and DPOY awards.

Where I disagree:

  • ACC Player of the Year-Erick Green-Virginia Technical Institute: It’s time to dust off the files containing the arguments about whether or not Alex Rodriguez should have won A.L. MVP in 2003 when the Texas Rangers finished 71-91 and were 25 games out of first place in the A.L. West. This is a similar situation in a different sport but this time there is no discussion. This is blatantly wrong. Green’s Hokies finished dead last in the ACC with a 13-18 (4-14) record. Three of Virginia Tech’s conference wins came against the three teams that are immediately ahead of them in the league’s standings–Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson, whose cumulative record is six games below .500. Yes, Green leads the country in scoring at 25.4 points per game but  VT hasn’t accomplished much this season besides knocking off then-No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1. What’s wrong with Miami’s Shane Larkin, who led the ACC Champion Hurricanes in points, assists, steals and three-point percentage? What’s wrong with Mason Plumlee, who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the No. 2 Blue Devils? The ACC voters were way off in their POY vote. 
  • SEC Player of the Year-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-University of Georgia: I have a similar beef with the SEC voters that I do with the ACC voters. The Georgia Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the SEC. They tied for eighth place in a power 6 conference that barely has three teams in the current projection of the 68-team NCAA Tournament field that will be released on Sunday. There’s no doubt that Caldwell-Pope is a good player–he is in the top 10 in the SEC in nine of the 13 statistical categories. Plus, he is projected to be a future first round draft pick in the NBA. However, the combination of his occasional struggles with inefficiency and inability to excel against ranked opponents do not make him deserving of the honor. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had difficulties with inefficiency in the beginning (17 points on 21 shots against Souther Mississippi on 11/15), the middle (16 points on 18 shots against Georgia Tech on 12/4 and 19 points on 19 shots against Ole Miss on 2/16) and the end (14 points on 15 shots against Alabama on 3/9) of the season. Coincidentally, Georgia lost all of those games. Also, Caldwell-Pope scored below his 18 ppg average in all five of UGA’s games against ranked opponents. In fact, he averaged nearly four fewer points. Star players step up in big games instead of backing down. Maybe I should just accept the SEC’s POY award as a sign of how bad the conference is this season but I think that Tennessee’s Jordan McRae was robbed. The Vols tied for fifth in the SEC and are only a win or two from making the tournament. McRae led UT in scoring with a 16.2 points per game average but he averaged over 24 in the team’s final seven games. In that stretch, Tennessee went 6-1, demolished No. 25 Kentucky by 30 points, defeated No. 8 Florida and McRae scored over 34 points on two occasions.

NBA Draft requirements should be re-evaluated after Noel’s injury

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire are just a few of the NBA players who chose to forgo college in favor of entering the Association out of high school. There may not be a bigger leap in athletics and not every player has flourished at the next level.

Even though some of these high school players haven’t panned out in the NBA, such as Kwame Brown and DaSagana Diop, they have still been able to make a living by playing basketball at the highest level in the world.

High school players could no longer go straight to the NBA when the draft entry rules changed in July of 2005. The NBA and NBA Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that required players to be at least 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school.

Since 2005, the latest trend of star recruits has been “one-and-done” players, which has been the face of John Calipari’s recruiting strategy at the University of Kentucky.

Nerlens Noel, a 6’10” center out of Tilton, N.H., was ranked No. 1 in the 2012 recruiting class by ESPN and No. 2 by Rivals.com before committing to Kentucky. The latest 2013 NBA Mock Drafts from CBS Sports, NBADraft.net and HoopsWorld.com project Noel being selected anywhere from the No. 1 overall pick to fourth.

However, that could all change after Nerlens Noel suffered a gruesome torn ACL injury in the second half of Kentucky’s game against Florida on Tuesday.

Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. (Image courtesy of http://www.thebiglead.com/index.php/2013/02/13/nerlens-noel-photo-knee-injury-kentucky-florida/)
Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. (Image courtesy of http://www.thebiglead.com)

He will miss the remainder of the season and his future on the basketball court is up in the air.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s MVP season last year, in which he was only nine yards shy of setting the NFL single season rushing record less than a year removed from tearing his left ACL and MCL, proved the advanced states of modern technology and medicine.

Noel will be able to rehabilitate his knee and return to the court but there is no guarantee that he will be the same player that averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game for Kentucky this season.

A potentially career ruining injury for arguably the best NBA prospect in college basketball is devastating if Noel is unable to rehabilitate his knee or return to his prior form.

Nerlens Noel had to be helped off of the court by several teammates due to the severity of his injury. (Image courtesy of ukathletics.com)
Nerlens Noel had to be helped off of the court by several teammates due to the severity of his injury. (Image courtesy of http://www.ukathletics.com)

The requirements to enter the NBA Draft must be re-evaluated. If Noel had been able to enter the draft after high school, he would have been paid handsomely. Even if he suffered a horrible injury in the NBA like the one that ended his college season, he still would have earned enough money to support himself and his family.

It has long been assumed that Nerlens Noel would leave for the NBA after one season at Kentucky. One year of college will help future lottery picks such as Noel mature and improve as basketball players but is it really necessary to force high schoolers to attend college for one year when it only takes one bad step or collision to ruin their futures in the NBA? One-and-done players use college as a gateway to millions of dollars and promising careers at the next level. If high school players are talented and mature enough for the NBA by the time they’re 19 years old, then why not let them enter the draft and try to profit from their talents while they’re healthy?

The NBA does not have to make any changes to the draft requirements but the league and the NBA Players Association should at least consider the possibility. Everyone—the NBA, college basketball programs, basketball fans and most importantly, the players themselves—loses if star players are injured in college and their careers are put in jeopardy.

Making cases for Kansas, Michigan and Florida to be ranked No. 1

Last week was a bloodbath for the AP Top 25. No. 1 Duke lost at Miami (FL) by 27. Louisville lost three consecutive games in the Big East to No. 6 Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Minnesota lost four straight games in the Big Ten. With all of the losses by ranked teams, the No. 1 position is up for grabs and three teams have cases to claim the top spot in this week’s updated polls.

Kansas’ case to be ranked No. 1

The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)
The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)

The Jayhawks are 18-1 and their only loss was by three points to then-No. 21 Michigan State in the second game of the season. Since its only blemish on its 18-1 record, Kansas beat No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio and topped No. 11 Kansas State on the road. Bill Self’s squad is off to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and the team has won 33 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is nearly unbeatable at home and its two victories against ranked opponents were on the road, which proves that the Jayhawks can win anywhere they play. They also beat Ohio State, who gave Michigan its only loss of the season, by eight points.

Michigan’s case to be ranked No. 1

Similarly to Kansas, Michigan only has one loss this season and it was also by three points when the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines on Jan. 13. Michigan has two wins against ranked opponents. The Wolverines defeated then-No. 18 North Carolina State at home and then-No. 9 Minnesota on the road. The co-leaders of the Big Ten are 19-1 (6-1) and have 15 double-digit wins this season. Michigan’s resume also includes wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Illinois, who are all teams that have been ranked at some point during the season but weren’t when they lost to the Wolverines.

Florida’s case to be ranked No. 1

The Florida Gators are 16-2 (6-0) and tied with Ole Miss for the SEC lead. Their only two losses are a 65-64 loss at Arizona, a competitive game in which Wildcats guard Mark Lyons hit the game-winning jumper with seven seconds left, and a six-point loss to Kansas State. The Gators have rattled off eight straight wins and have dominated their SEC opponents in conference play. The most points that Florida has allowed in an SEC game is 52 and four of the Gators’ opponents have scored in the forties. Florida’s average margin of victory in conference play is over 26 points and earlier this month they defeated then-No. 17 Missouri 83-52. Granted, the SEC lacks proven teams and depth outside of Florida, Ole Miss and Missouri but the Gators are the team to beat down South.

Kansas has the strongest case because they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, who later handed Michigan its only loss, on the road by eight. Of the three teams, Florida’s case is the weakest because the Gators have two losses and play in arguably the weakest of the power 6 conferences.

Jay Bilas responds to 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament question on Twitter

Collectively, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois have 13 men’s basketball national championships, 38 Final Four appearances and a 260-118 record in the NCAA Tournament. However, all three teams could be in danger of missing the tourney this season. North Carolina is 13-6 (3-3) and tied for fifth place in the ACC. Kentucky is also 13-6 (4-2) and tied for third in the SEC. Illinois is 15-6 (2-5) and tied for ninth in the Big Ten.

I tweeted at several college basketball analysts about what the chances are that the teams meet in the First Four (teams 65 through 68) in Dayton, Ohio in March.

Jay Bilas question

 

Jay Bilas answer

 

Certainly, I don’t expect these three teams to be in the “First Four,” let alone for all three to make the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but it would make for an exciting day of basketball in Dayton.

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

December 2nd Vlog

I talk about the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, whether the Chiefs-Panthers game should be played as scheduled, the passing of former NCAA men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus, if this year’s Kentucky squad is the worst under John Calipari, and whether Duke or Indiana should be ranked number one.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.

How I Met Anthony Davis

I have been fortunate enough to meet several local sports figures over the course of junior high and high school. Former University of Cincinnati football coach and current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly as well as Anthony Munoz, the former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle and Hall of Famer, both spoke at my school in eighth grade. In the fall of my freshman year, I met former UC quarterback Ben Mauk after storming the field when the Bearcats beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 45-44 at Nippert Stadium. Last summer, through my summer job as a snack shack employee at a local country club I served food to Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton, national radio host and television personality Bill Cunningham, and Cincinnati Bengals then-rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton is a class-act and talked with me for a solid ten minutes, signed an autograph for me, and called me by name the next time he stopped by.

However famous and influential these sports figures are in the city of Cincinnati, meeting Anthony Davis at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was on a completely different scale in terms of the timing and national spotlight. Only a week earlier, Davis had been cutting down the nets in New Orleans as a college basketball national champion. Add every 2012 National Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, SEC Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year award possible to his one-year resumé at Kentucky and you have the biggest sports star over the past six months in the United States.

I was flying solo for the first time and was calling my parents about potentially getting bumped from my flight when I turned around and saw a 6’10” African American with a unibrow, wearing a sweatsuit. I did a double-take and thought to myself “there’s no way that’s actually him.” Then I realized that there is honestly no one else I could be confusing him with and started following him. He was talking on the phone and I didn’t want to interrupt him so I followed him until he sat down at his gate, snapping a few pictures along the way.

A little bit creepy?

Yes.

Was it worth it?

Of course.

The entire time that I was walking a few strides behind him down the “G” wing of O’Hare I felt like I was the famous one, simply because of all of the people who were staring at the nationally-recognized ‘brow and whispering to those around them. Since I was by myself, there was no one to talk to about him, so I had to do the next best thing, which consisted of introducing myself to him and then Tweeting about it.

I was the one person with enough courage to actually approach him. He was sitting down and off the phone, so I went up and said, “Hey Anthony, I’m a big fan.” He had seen me coming so we had a half-second of awkward eye contact and he didn’t respond to my greeting. I had no idea what to do next so I blurted out “It’s nice to meet you” and stuck out my hand. He slowly reached out and gave me the infamous “dead fish” that every etiquette teacher warns against. It may have been awkward but I walked away with my head held high because I just shook hands with the #1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

And that is how I met Anthony Davis.