The Gap Between Talent, Reality

UH basketball forward Josten Thomas announced last week he’s leaving school to pursue a career in professional basketball.

Frankly, he is not an NBA-level talent. That said, he could possibly play in a lower level European league. He has power forward skills in a small forward’s body. He proved quite useful on the low block, but preferred the perimeter where he wanted to break ankles with the crossover dribble and hoist off balance jump shots.

He was what coaches would kindly call “high maintenance.”

Yet the disparity between his game and his perception of his game are fairly typical of college basketball players. Very few are as good as they think they are. For a few, such as Duke’s Austin Rivers or Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, huge riches await in the NBA. For most, as the commercial says, they’ll have to go professional in something other than sports.

And while a college degree is no guarantee of job success, statistics show that those who have one enjoy significantly higher earnings over a lifetime than those that don’t.

And while it’s always possible to return to school, studies suggest that most scholarship athletes who leave do not return to school.

I wish Josten Thomas all the best chasing his basketball dream, but he’ll have to beat the odds to make it happen.

* The L.A. Dodgers have been purchased by a group featuring Magic Johnson and longtime baseball exec Stan Kasten as front men. The sale price was $2 billion – about two and a half times more than anybody ever paid for a baseball team.

But there is a well-established tradition of overpaying for baseball properties. Remember when former Rangers owner Tom Hicks paid A-Rod $250 million? Nobody else was considering more than $180 million, so Hicks put the torch to $70 million.

Any number of players have been overpaid, but never before has somebody paid so much more for a team over its consensus value. Last year experts pegged the value at $800 million. And an hour away on the freeway, Arte Moreno purchased the Angels for $180 million.

It’s hard to imagine that the owners will be able to recoup their investment without diving deep into the pockets of the fan base. The real winner appears to be former owner Frank McCourt, who can now afford his pricey and well-publicized divorce.

* Sad news: the U.S. men’s soccer team will not be participating in the London Olympics. So is the U.S. really catching up to the rest of the world? Truth is the U.S. will never be competitive in soccer until the best athletes choose to play. Currently the best athletes gravitate towards sports that receive far greater media exposure. Too bad, because participation in youth soccer is higher than for other sports.

Be that as it may, it still rankles when you see a score like USA 3, El Salvador 3, especially in a must-win game.