NCAA logo on the court

College basketball’s delicate balance

Before the end of the season, there were whispers that Mac McClung would test the NBA waters. None of it made sense.

His freakish athleticism is a cool YouTube clip but how does it transfer to the NBA? Frankly, it doesn’t. There are bigger, stronger just as athletic players on the NBA level.

Could McClung play point guard? On the surface it doesn’t seem like he can. Has he ever ran an offense where he wasn’t the number one option like he was in high school? Could he do this successfully against top Big East competition? The short answer is ‘no’. He would have to completely change who he is on the court.

Apparently, that’s what McClung wanted head coach Patrick Ewing to do whether it was best for the program or not. Being able to play point guard on the college level would allow McClung to showcase to NBA scouts where they feel like he would fit in on the next level.

“Being more of a point guard role, etc. I’m not saying he couldn’t have gotten that at Georgetown, but he didn’t showcase that at Georgetown,” said McClung’s agent Daniel Hazan. He didn’t get the opportunity really to showcase that.”

Ewing isn’t the first coach nor will he be the last coach to have this dilemma. Where’s the line between helping a player get better for the next level and doing what’s best for the program? Let’s be clear. College coaches are paid to win college basketball games.

Georgetown was decimated by injuries this season. With Ewing’s hands tied, he had to tighten up his rotation. McClung is a natural off-ball player on this level. It was where he was most effective and it was what was beneficial to Georgetown.

Don’t misunderstand me, McClung has every right to transfer if he felt like Georgetown wasn’t the best fit for him.

The gap between college basketball and the NBA has grown. NBA scouts are looking at more international games for prospects because it resembles the NBA game more than college basketball. A few high school players have taken notice and went overseas to play instead of playing college basketball, most notably, LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton.

The NBA responded to the trend by offering Select Contracts to high level high school basketball players.

It’s easy for the untrained eye to take McClung’s side by looking at the Hoyas record and saying “why not” but that’s not how you build a program. Building a program isn’t like building a team for a pick up game. There is a long-term plan to make a school’s program attractive to high-level recruits. Having a “why the hell not” attitude isn’t the way to do it.

McClung didn’t spend a lot of time at point guard because it wasn’t what was best for the team. He was recruited to play off the ball and he knew that prior to signing on with Georgetown.

McClung was part of Ewing’s best recruiting class. His transfer closes the book on that class. James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc, and Grayson Carter had already transferred. The player who benefited the most from wearing the Georgetown uniform was McClung but he felt like his goals were bigger than the team which is easy to do when a team isn’t winning.

The ordeal at Georgetown re-emphasis how different college basketball is than the NBA. And though this situation doesn’t necessarily illustrate it, the NCAA and it’s style of play needs to resemble FIBA/NBA.

If they don’t, there will be more McClungs that will have the NBA remind them that college basketball isn’t the path it once was.

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