WSU HOOPS

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Archive for May 15th, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive (unfortunately)

Posted by Jeff Nusser on May 15, 2008

Just one day after lamenting there’s been no WSU basketball news to speak of, the team announced yesterday that Thomas Abercrombie is leaving to pursue professional opportunities back in his homeland of New Zealand.

I’m disappointed, but hardly surprised. His athleticism turned him into somewhat of an urban legend around the program — for his entire redshirt year, all anyone heard was how high the coaching staff was on this long lanky kid who kept destroying people in practice and needed just a little more seasoning before taking the Pac-10 by storm — but he never came close to living up to the hype.

In an offensive and defensive system that relies heavily on precision, it was obvious to even this untrained eye that he was consistently out of position on most possessions. The athleticism was evident in the minutes he got this year, but equally evident was that he didn’t really have any clue how to play Bennett basketball. That’s a pretty huge problem.

Some guys “get” the Bennett system, some guys don’t. It takes a different kind of basketball IQ to play for a guy like Tony Bennett, and while I don’t know anything about Abercrombie personally, one can make a reasonable claim that after two years in the program — one a redshirt in which his sole job was to learn how to play in the system — he should have been a lot farther along in his development than he was. With a six-man recruiting class coming in that includes three guys who basically play his same position, the writing was on the wall.

The thing I’m most sad about, from a purely selfish perspective, is that he’s heading back to New Zealand. I would have loved to see him transfer to another school and watch what he could do in a system that really played to his strengths, one that allowed him to just lock guys down one-on-one on defense and get out and run and run and run on offense.

But it’s not about me, it’s about him, and I feel sad for Abercrombie that it turned out this way. Without that redshirt year, he would have had just two years of eligibility remaining and would have essentially endured two out of three years with no competitive basketball. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that either, not 7,000 miles from home. It’s time for him to get on with his basketball career, and in the right situation, I’m sure he can have a nice one back home.

In the end, it became a numbers game for a guy that never quite seemed to fit. Keep that in mind next time you’re going nuts over the next “can’t miss” recruit — this is just another example of the kind of wacky circumstances that can keep a kid from fulfilling his potential in a program.

Oh, and by the way: Still looking for mailbag questions. I’ve gotten a few already, and I’ll be working on it over the weekend. Continue to fire away here.

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