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

March 26, 2003:

From the P-Nut gallery to the pros!
The N.B.A. has a new international star waiting in the wings

By Nate Sellyn '04

Sports fans,

I write to you this week with a heavy heart. I have recently been informed that I will not continue inhabiting the P-Nut Gallery during my senior year, barring unforeseen idiocy on the part of all 29 N.B.A. franchises.

I... hold on, are you all right? Hey, come on now, shooter don't cry. Hey, hey, it's gonna be all right. Here's a hankie... and a hug. Yeah, I know, I love you, too.

Really, it's for the best. I haven't been fired — although that would likely have happened anyway. I'm actually doing something every athlete dreams of. I'm going pro. Putting my name in the NBA Draft. Again. Hey, it may cost me my senior year, but I've decided it's something I need to do. Don't worry, unlike Lebron James, Dajuan Wagner, and Darius Miles, I've got real reasons.

First, though, I'll give you some history. Yes, I said I'm declaring my eligibility for June's NBA Draft again. I dropped this bomb the first time when I was a senior in high school. If you're a good P-Nut reader, though, you knew that already. That year was my fourth season playing varsity ball in British Columbia's competitive A division. I averaged just under 10 points, seven rebounds, and a nearly immortal seven steals a game. That's right, seven steals. When I ran the press, opposing point guards often ran right out of the gym in fear. After my senior year concluded, my coach and I decided there was only one place for me to go, regardless of certain Princeton acceptance letters. My game wasn't suited for college. It was tailor made for the hardwood of the NBA.

I declared myself eligible that May, and the scouts started calling. Initially, there were minor concerns about my size. I didn't have the benefit of a college weightroom at that time, and some of them thought my 6'2", 150-pound frame couldn't handle 82 games of banging in the paint and chasing down the likes of Earl Boykins. Others felt — given that I only hit one three-pointer during my entire high school career — that I didn't have NBA range on my jumper. I knew I'd prove them wrong, though, like countless other guys who were skipping varying years of college for real cash and real groupies. I mean, real cash and real competition.

Things hit a snag, though. The NBA, at that time, didn't allow international players to declare for the draft unless they turned 18 before the declaration deadline. Given that this was sometime in mid-May, and I graduated when I was 17... my hopes were dashed by NBA bureaucracy and my Canadian heritage. They wanted my fearless defense, dazzling handle, and rugged good looks to stay in the Rockies. The NBA wanted to hold me down, and they succeeded.

My first year of college changed everything. I didn't feel I'd get the respect I deserved playing for Princeton, so I held back. Since I wasn't playing, or doing anything else resembling exercise, I fell out of shape. When the NBA draft came around again, I just didn't consider myself ready anymore.

This year, though, things are different. I've been secretly playing in Dillon Gym every morning. My jumper has evolved into a thing of Larry Bird-esque beauty. I can touch the rim with both hands. I bought a headband.

Also, I'm no longer a mere 6'2", 150 pounds. I weigh an easy 165 and I can bench my own weight like three times. I run a 50 in 6 seconds flat. The headband is purple.

The scouts are calling like teenage girls at a Justin Timberlake concert this time; they're anxious. Sports Illustrated senior writer Alex Wolff '79 saw me one day, hitting four free throws in a row, and word got out. The Celtics have been to campus, asking all the right questions. The Lakers, too. Even the Nuggets. "The Next Steve Nash: Canadians Conquer the NBA," read an unpublished E.S.P.N. article. Last week, I even picked up a girl because she knew I was, in her words, "that guy who talks about how he's going to be in the N.B.A. all the time." Good move, baby, good move.

Why now, you might be asking. I've got another year of college left. Why not wait and get my degree? Maybe even help Princeton to Ivy title next year, and March success.

The answer is, I just can't. I've got brothers and sisters in private school. I have bills to pay — $14.07 for long distance in February, and maybe just as much in March. Maybe I can return to campus one day, finish things up, but I can't walk out to Prospect anymore. I need a Cadillac Escalade with an X-Box in the back. Besides, the endorsement opportunities aren't here. If you had to choose between free Nikes and free U-Store gear, which would you pick?

Besides, the game needs me. They're hungry for an opportunity to tap the Canadian-Jewish fan base. Forget Europe's Darko and Sofoklis. The N.B.A. wants an international rookie superstar with a name that doesn't remind them of a super-villain.

I'd love to stay, Princeton, but I need the cash, and the game don't wait. Next time you see this purple headband, it may well say Lakers on the side, or at least North Charleston Lowgators.


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU