June 27, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE In the weeks leading up to the NBA's June 18 final declaration date for underclassmen, there was a growing consensus that Virginia point guard Sean Singletary would bypass his final season of eligibility.
Then, in the waning hours before the 5 p.m. deadline, Singletary did what he and his parents always said he would do. He notified the NBA that he was removing his name from consideration.
Singletary may have been the last underclassman to make his intentions known. Some of that might have been procedural, because coach Dave Leitao and other Singletary associates said the decision had come into increasingly clearer focus over the June 16-17 weekend.
When Singletary and Leitao met with reporters June 19, Singletary seemed subdued, although some of that might have stemmed from the 10 a.m. hour. He repeated nearly a half-dozen times that he had made the decision that was right for him, but he didn't sound too excited about it.
He also said that he felt sure that he would have been taken at the end of the first round or early in the second round, even if mock drafts had him listed no higher than the end of the second. His mother, Jaqui, said she had been advised by NBA contacts that Sean would go between the 20th and 38th pick. She added that she did not believe any of the projections she saw on the internet.
Had Singletary left his name under consideration, he possibly would have been disappointed, but that happens to somebody every year. In the days leading up to the declaration date, Andy Katz wrote a piece for ESPN on the trials and tribulations of Guillermo Diaz, the former Miami guard who came out early in 2006 but did not make the NBA.
All of these guys think they can make it to "The League," as many call it, and that bravado is part of what makes them the players they are. Singletary was not a McDonald's or Parade All-American coming out of high school, but he is a two-time first-team All-ACC player, the Cavaliers' first since 1992. Don't tell him that he's too short or not a pure point guard, because that only makes him more determined to prove people wrong.
Singletary comes from a strong, two-parent family. When he first made himself available to the NBA in late April, both parents said they wanted him to graduate from UVa and have a four-year college career. Singletary likes to have people think that he defers to his parents, his mom said, but she and her husband never would have made him stay in college against his will.
Certainly, it would have been difficult for Singletary to tell Leitao that he was not returning, but Leitao said he constantly reminded himself not to be selfish and to consider himself blessed to have had Singletary for two years. Leitao said he had contact of some form with Singletary almost every day of the six-week process.
Clearly, UVa fans would have liked for Singletary to announce in mid-May that he was coming back, but once he elected to go through the process, he wasn't going to do it halfway. He attended the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, then worked out individually with a handful of teams, including his hometown Philadelphia 76ers on the Friday before his declaration.
That had to be exciting, more exciting than sitting at a press conference in the bowels of John Paul Jones Arena, sharing space with Leitao at a small, collapsible table prior to a fire alarm that caused the building to be evacuated.
Maybe it was the hour, because Leitao didn't seem overly excited, either, but Singletary's return was "obviously significant," he said. It probably means the difference between the ACC's first division and the second division, the difference between an NCAA bid and an NIT bid (or maybe even a losing record) and crowds of 12,000-15,000 as opposed to 10,000 or worse.
The crowds are more of an issue to the athletic department than to Leitao, whose alternative to Singletary would have been unheralded recruit Sam Zeglinski, who played at Singletary's high school (William Penn Charter) and for the same coach. Three of UVa's four signees were guards, including high-scoring Jeff Jones and Mustapha Farrakhan.
Leitao likes the idea of playing two combo guards, and last year he got more than 100 assists out of senior J.R. Reynolds, but Jones and Farrakhan probably would not have been ready for that role in 2007-08. Now Zeglinski likely will spell Singletary, with Jones and Farrakhan splitting time at the other spot.
Or the Cavaliers could use junior Mamadi Diane at shooting guard. That would enable them to start senior Adrian Joseph at small forward and have two post players from a group that will include Tunji Soroye, Lauris Mikalauskas, Ryan Pettinella and Jerome Meyinsse. However, a starting lineup that included Soroye and any of the others would be scoring-impaired.
Another problem with that lineup is that Diane has not demonstrated the ball-handling skills in the combo guard mold of a Reynolds. Defensively, Diane has been inconsistent. In fact, he's been inconsistent in most areas, but he still has more career 20-point games than any returning player other than Singletary.
One thing is for sure: In the last year that the college three-point line will be at 19-9, UVa will have a slew of three-point shooters, including the freshmen and sophomore forward Jamal Tucker. An intriguing possibility because he's 6-9 and has a big body, Tucker went 21-of-43 on three-pointers last year.
Virginia does not appear to be a sleeper Final Four contender, as ESPN analyst James Dickey described the Cavaliers early in the 2006-07 season, but they should be tough to beat at home again because of their shooting. And Singletary, as he has done throughout his career, will win some games by himself.
BASEBALL FINISH FEELING BETTER
Oregon State's ascent to the championship series of the NCAA baseball tournament had to leave Virginia feeling slightly less upset at its continued inability to reach the event's second weekend.
By the end of the regional Virginia hosted, three of the top four hitters in the UVa lineup were injured. The fourth, Sean Doolittle, was
1-for-15. Yet the Cavaliers needed to win only one of their last two games with the Beavers and they would have hosted a Super Regional.
First-round "sandwich" pick and 2006 ACC player of the year Doolittle will not be back for a fourth year after signing with the Oakland A's, and All-ACC outfielder Brandon Guyer was expected to sign with the Cubs, but coach Brian O'Connor's recruiting prowess should have UVa at the 40-win level for a fifth straight year.