Some Texas Tech fans may not realize that the NBA Draft took place last night, and for good reason. Unlike with the NFL Draft, Red Raiders have had no reason to tune in to the basketball version of prospect picking over the last several years.
Even the most passive hoops fan could have predicted that players from Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA and Kansas would headline the event. College basketball hit the one-and-done apex this year with 16 freshmen being selected in the first 30 picks. Many of these players simply use the allure of blue-blood programs to magnify their exposure during what amounts to 8 months of training camp.
The collegiate and professional games are steadily growing apart and production at one level doesn’t equate to opportunity at the next anymore. Pro teams often value physical tools like hand size and wingspan more than traits like grit and passion that make college basketball so enticing.
Having a player drafted is usually a badge of honor for a school and program. It gives diehard college fans a reason to watch different pro teams throughout the year and creates some buzz for the school. But despite the one-and-done takeover, winning in college basketball still requires experience and teamwork.
The Big 12 had six players drafted last night from five teams. Kansas and Texas placed one-and-done freshmen in the first round, while Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State sent veteran guards to the next level. Baylor’s Johnathan Motley was predicted to go early in the second round but an offseason surgery scared teams away from him. Oklahoma had nobody picked this year after a rebuilding season, but Buddy Hield was the sixth pick a year ago.
This is to say, the Big 12 has talent. It is the top-to-bottom toughest conference in the country. Over the last two years, only West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU have failed to get a player drafted.
This would seem like a major negative for Tech if West Virginia wasn’t included on this list. If the Mountaineers, who are consistently ranked and led by one of college basketball’s most accomplished coaches, can’t get a player drafted, then how valuable is a draft pick?
On the current Tech roster, only Zach Smith and Keenan Evans have a realistic shot of playing in the NBA’s G-League someday, much less the Association itself. Tech will likely never consistently recruit the handful of players who go on to be drafted. Most schools don’t.
Though the same dozen or so programs will continue to land the best players and stay in the spotlight, the last five years have shown that veteran leadership, continuity and great coaching are still the main ingredients to success. The previous two No. 1 draft picks won 28 games total. Texas Tech has won 37 in that span in a tougher conference. Let other schools have the all-world talents who can’t wait to leave. Give us the guys who are happy to be Red Raiders.