So Long, Joe
By now, most of Mountaineer Nation has heard the news that Joe Alexander has decided to forego his senior season to enter the NBA draft, as reported here, by ESPN.com, as well as a number of other sources.
Since there's a lot to address with this decision, I'm dividing this blog up into two parts. Alexander's present position and draft prospects, and a retrospective of one of the most talented players to take the hardwood for the Mountaineers in a long, long time.
Alas, poor Joe. We hardly knew ye.
Joe's Decision and Draft Position
This news shouldn't come as a surprise to those that have been following Alexander's progression through the NBA Draft process. Although I stated in this article called "Joe Alexander and the NBA" that Joe probably wasn't going anywhere, I wasn't prepared for him to completely dominate the pre-draft camps and workouts as he has.
The previously cited ESPN.com article notes that Alexander was invited to private workouts for the 8th-picking Milwaukee Bucks, "New York (which picks sixth), Charlotte (9th), Phoenix (15th) and ...Golden State (14th)" and attended another in Portland (13th pick) today.
Additionally, "Alexander was one of 15 players invited to the physical-only portion of the Orlando pre-draft camp in late May." For the non NBA Draft geeks among you, typically the 15 players invited to that portion of the process are guaranteed to be top 20 picks in the draft, so his inclusion set the stage for the inevitable decision to go pro.
So as it stands now, Alexander has a strong chance of being drafted in the top 15, meaning a nice fat (and most importantly guaranteed) contract for at least the next two years (NBA teams have a team option for the third year of a rookie contract.)
And really, it would have been an extremely risky decision for him to return to the Mountaineers for his senior season. While the difference between being a second-round pick and a top five pick is millions of dollars, the difference between being the 10th pick and top 5 isn't that great. Additionally, the big payday for NBA entrants comes on their second NBA contract, where the sliding rookie scale is no longer in play.
So by entering now, Joe's big payday (if it comes) is a year closer than it would have been if he'd stayed another year. (And keep in mind, Joe's already two years older than many of the top one-and-done entrants in this year's class.)
Add into the equation the possibility of an injury next year leaving him out of the draft process entirely in 2009, and it's hard to blame Joe for opting for security.
Yeah, it would've been nice to take a shot at the national championship with his friends on the Mountaineer basketball team, but that eventuality isn't nearly as guaranteed as the two years on the multimillion dollar contract he's about to receive.
The only conceivable counter-argument to Alexander's decision to go pro.
Personally, I think this is a much tougher issue to deal with than many of my Mountaineer brethren are making it out to be. I'm getting the sense from many of them that Alexander is to be remembered as an all-time great, whereas I view him a little differently.
To me, Joe Alexander was a shooting star in Mountaineer Basketball Lore. A brief, brilliant flash across our horizon. His career was overflowing with possibility, but we only got to see the potential realized for a few games last February and March.
He started as a kid with limitless potential that played sparingly during a year in which a senior-laden Mountaineer squad was nationally ranked and made a run to the Sweet 16. (Maddeningly, Joe played a total of 36 minutes that year and was NOT redshirted, wasting another potential year of eligibility.) But even then, Joe's rare athletic ability was known to Mountaineer fans, as rumors of his rim skills began to widely circulate.
His sophomore season was filled with so much promise as a starter in John Beilein's rebuilding year that resulted in an NIT championship. But his production in that system never met his limitless potential, and his play and confidence suffered as the season wore on. Eventually, Joe found himself firmly entrenched in John Beilein's doghouse, playing fewer and fewer minutes, and his confidence visibly shaken.
Predictably, Bob Huggins proved more capable of harnessing Alexander's raw and incredible athletic ability into a fearsome weapon both offensively and defensively, and Alexander had a strong regular season during his junior year (and last as a Mountaineer.) But it isn't Joe's regular season prowess that placed him in the conversation of potential NBA lottery picks.
It was Alexander's late-season explosion of productivity that has brought him to this point. 32 against UConn. 32 against Pitt. 29 against St. Johns. 22 against Providence. 34 against UConn again in the Big East Tournament, including this ridiculous posterization:
Then an effortless 14 and 8 against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament. Then 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and roughly 10 expletives screamed in the face of Blue-Devil preppies. And doing all of it with a flair for the dramatic, taking over every facet of the game, and dominating like no Mountaineer basketball player in recent memory en route to a memorable Sweet 16 run of his own before bowing out to Xavier.
(To be clear on how dominant he was, I even used the word "Jordanesque" in my basketball manifesto column- and unlike the Kobe worshippers out there, I don't throw that word around lightly.)
But then it was over. We had two and a half years of potential and sheer promise, about 8 games of watching him justbegintoscratchit, and then, just like that, he's gone.
As a fan, I'll always remember those special games in February and March of 2008 when one of the best basketball players I'll probably ever see in Gold and Blue was one of, if not THE dominant player in NCAA basketball. And maybe even more amazingly, I'll remember that even though he came so far as a basketball player, he still had the potential to be even better.
And I really wish I would've gotten to see him inch closer to that potential for just one more year in Morgantown.
Joe, we wish you the absolute best.
We know you'll make us proud.
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Posted: 6/17/2008 10:13 am Updated: 6/17/2008 10:13 am
Re: So Long, Joe
good stuff jude. it is hard to see him go because it does seem like he was just realizing his potential. however, its his decision and we should support him 100%.
Posted: 6/17/2008 2:28 pm Updated: 6/17/2008 2:28 pm
From: Washington DC
Re: So Long, Joe
Joe Alexander = Couch Hall of Fame.
Posted: 6/19/2008 5:45 am Updated: 6/19/2008 5:45 am
From: Rockville, MD
Re: So Long, Joe
Thanks, Jude. Joe added to the impressive showing WVU has had in the past five years. Watching WVU basketball and football has just been plain fun.