Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Character matters even in basketball

By Tom Grant
PhD Student, Center for ETHICS*

The Aggies of Texas A&M played great basketball Tuesday night, with Danielle Adams scoring 30 points in the second half to help her team to a win over Notre Dame in the women's NCAA basketball championship

Compared to the ragged play in the men's NCAA championship matchup -- which one writer called "cover-your-eyes awful" --  the women's game was a sign of what basketball at it's best can be: smart, aggressive and thrilling.

Adams represents the American dream in athletics. She was a great high school player and signed with Missouri. But that plan was derailed because she had to attend a junior college. She had to fight her way back. She used junior college to get her academic and basketball career on track, then signed at A&M after being named junior college player of the year in 2009. But she had a lot more work to do.

Here's what she told ESPN: "After I had to go to junior college, I knew it was a chance for me to work harder and get better," Adams said. "I thought, 'Maybe another team will pick me up that I really like.' And A&M gave me that chance."

Even that wasn't enough. Adams, a 6-1 post, was overweight. She needed to lose 40 pounds to get in shape to become competitive in Division I. And she did.

The Texas A&M team represents what is rarely seen in men's basketball, a team of  highly skilled and highly experienced players committed to a great team performance. A&M was led seniors Adams and Sydney Colson along with junior Tyra White. They were experience heavy, and had worked together for years.

In men's basketball, the one-and-done has changed the character of the game. John Feinstein writes that it's one of the things leading men's basketball downhill:

"Many college coaches call this the 'AAUization' of the game. Stars are coddled from the very beginning; no one tells them they have to play defense, no one teaches them fundamentals and no one gets on them if they don’t play hard. Why? Because if a star gets yelled at by one coach, he goes and finds a new coach. That’s why it is now common for players to go to three or four high schools and play on a different AAU team every summer. Then they come to college knowing they hold all the cards with their coach: They only have to deal with him for one year, so why put up with him if he makes unreasonable demands such as 'Would you please try on defense?'"

Feinstein says the NBA needs to change its rules, allowing high school players jump to the NBA if they think they're good enough but forcing those who commit to college to stay there for at least three years. Such a rule would mirror Major League Baseball's relationship with colleges.

Feinstein also argues that men's college basketball needs to clean up its act: "There is also the continuing issue of what everyone who cares about college athletics has known to be true for years: cheating pays. The team that just won the national championship is on probation for major rules violations. The Hall of Fame coach who just joined John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only coaches to win at least three national titles will be suspended for his team’s first three conference games next winter because of a “lack of compliance” with NCAA rules. In English, a lack of compliance means you cheated."

NCAA men's basketball could learn a bit from Adams and A&M. They won their title with dedication, perseverance and hard work. They had to make the grades and come together as a team. And they did it without a blot on their recruiting record. And, in my opinion, they played a lot better game than the men -- and not just on the floor.



  1. I agree with the post because I see it all the time, the women play a different style of basketball than the men do. What I mean is the women don't give up on plays and they will fight all the way to the end. This is the same in high school all the way to professional. The men feel as though they are good enough so they don't have to try as hard. Defense wins championships! In the NBA, you see the men walking up and down the court. As for the WNBA, them women hustle during every play and for the whole game. Someone needs to get a hold of the kids while they are young and teach them how basketball is really played, and that is watching the A&M team that this article posted about.