A timeout needed on Ha’s NBA dreamOrientation. Party. Go to class. Study. Pop quiz. First date. Eat junk. Cram. Pray. Big test. Write paper. Horrible date. Blind date. Make up test. Fun date. Unexpected visit from parents. Panic. Pray. Diploma.
These are the things that I remember from my college days, and I miss them dearly.
Thus, it is perplexing for me to see someone willing to throw away all that for nothing. Why on earth would you pass up a chance to have the time of your life, to learn and to prepare yourself for the future in a sophisticated environment?
Granted, if you are a sought-after high school athlete, the answer might look different when there is an opportunity to make some very big bucks. But even then I'll say this: Stay in school.
Still, it seems hard for many to resist those big piles of green.
According to his father, Ha Seung-jin, the 220 centimeter tall (7 feet, 3 inches) high school basketball player, will leave soon for Los Angeles at the invitation of SFX, an agency that represents athletes, to participate in an SFX-sponsored basketball camp. Ha is expected to show off his skills to scouts from pro teams in the area, such as the Los Angeles Lakers.
When the news broke, the item was hailed by sports tabloids here as the second step in catapulting the young Korean into being the first from his country to play in the NBA. SFX came to Korea in January to check out Ha.
Ha won't be available for June’s NBA draft because he doesn’t turn 18 until next year. So the move is meant to give Ha a good audition for interested NBA teams.
I understand the hype surrounding Ha. Korea has never had anything like him in basketball, and all Koreans, all the world, for that matter, know the success China’s Yao Ming has had with the Houston Rockets. The bottom line: Ha is still a kid with a lot of growing to do in a lot of areas.
My hope is that Koreans don't immediately draw a parallel between Ha and Yao Ming. Ming was a well- prepared and proven player before he joined the NBA. He had played five solid seasons in China’s professional basketball league, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for four years.
An injury in middle school caused Ha to play only about five years of organized basketball at the scholastic level. That's nowhere near enough time, and it all came against boys.
At his height and at 140 kilograms (309 pounds) Ha looks to have the right size. But his lack of muscle is going to hinder him in the NBA. Right now, he’ll be lucky if he doesn’t get run over by a point guard.
I would rather see how Ha fares against the Samsung center Seo Jang-hun. I’d rather see Ha dominate the Korean Basketball League, putting up double-doubles night after night. I would rather see Ha go to college to at least learn some English, add some serious muscle and refine his game before doing anything stupid like declaring himself eligible for next year’s NBA draft.
How many high school stars in the United States have gone directly to the NBA and done well? Very, very few. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is a rare exception.
Ha shouldn’t be sweet-talked by an agent. Making it to the NBA is not important. Making it to the NBA and having a long, successful career there is.
by Brian Lee
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