Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn nsellyn@princeton.edu

March 10, 2004:

Let the madness begin
The P-Nut weighs in on hoops stars and Harrick Jr.

Hey sports fans, it's that time of year. The mascots have their costumes at the dry cleaners. The fans have placed their body paint orders. The cheerleaders are at the tanning salon. The kegs and pizzas are on their way. March Madness is nearly upon us. And Princeton is in the Big Dance, after winning the Ivy title. Hmm, I seem to remember predicting that one...

The question is how the Tigers will fare come tournament time. Well, I can't tell you. Selection Sunday will help to determine that. The selection of All-Americans, though, is one topic I'm prepared to discuss. Here are my picks:

Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph's

Nelson put up 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game while leading his team to a perfect record. Expect to see his name on every list in the country.

Emeka Okafor, Connecticut

Yes, UConn has struggled at times this year. It can't be denied, though, that Okafor dominates a game on the defensive end more than any other player in the nation. He won't fall farther than No. 2 in this year's N.B.A. Draft.

Hakim Warrick, Syracuse

Syracuse had every excuse to slip off the map after last year's championship with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. Warrick has made sure that didn't happen, putting up nearly 20 p.p.g. and 10 r.p.g. while pulling the fans out of the seats several times a game. The kid has more hops than Princeton's favorite beverage.

Ryan Gomes, Providence

Didn't you see him beat UConn by himself? He would be on a lot more lists if not for Providence's late season loss to Pittsburgh. He also shoots 88 percent from the free-throw stripe, which is something guys like the P-Nut appreciate.

Luke Jackson, Oregon

Jackson combines heart and intelligence to create his own brand of basketball. He stepped up this year when Oregon's best player left for the N.B.A. and was the best player in the PAC-10 all season long.

What, no Princetonians? Even with our tough schedule? In this conference? Hey, blame it on our brand of basketball.

March Madness will be a welcome relief for the N.C.A.A. from the drama of academic fraud. Try this one on: How many points is a 3-pointer worth?

Did you get it? That was just one of the many challenging questions featured on the final exam -- and only test -- in Georgia assistant basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr.'s 2001 class, "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball." The Bulldogs are currently on the bubble for the tournament, and one presumes Georgia thought it best to get all its skeletons out of the closet. Harrick Jr.'s exam and transcripts of interviews with some of the students in the class were among 1,500 pages of documents released March 3 by the university in its response to N.C.A.A. questioning about rules violations in the basketball program.

You may remember I looked at this issue before. (LINK?) The problem initially arose last year, when a former player accused Harrick Jr. — and his father, head coach Jim Harrick Sr. — of paying his bills, doing his schoolwork, and teaching a sham class on coaching. Well, now the details of that sham class have come to light, and the issue has opened up again like an infected cut. Yuck. The P-Nut was appalled when this came around the first time, and I'm appalled again now. Why can't there be a class like here? I mean, I'm certainly not all about 'lecture attendance' or 'reading the readings,' but my classes are hard. The Ivy League complains about grade inflation? Every student in Harrick Jr.'s class received an A. Can we give him some tenure over here?

Seriously, it will be a travesty if any member of the Harrick family — granddaughters included — is ever allowed to work at an educational institution again. Can you imagine the uproar if something like this had happened here? Alumni would burn down the stadium. To be honest, though, this story actually made me feel good about Princeton. I've taken classes with basketball players, football players, and plenty of other hulking athletes. Not only do they complete the same academic work as other students, but they do it well — and on a far more demanding schedule. In the past, I've used this column to shine the spotlight on athletes who chose to break the academic rules. It would do us all good, though — the P-Nut included — to remember that those kids are part of a very, very, very small minority. Athletes at Princeton jump the same classroom hurdles as every other student, and should be commended for it. Of course, if any of them are taking a Harrick course here, I hope they recommend it to me. I'll P-D-F it.


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU