THE SPORTS DOCTOR- NBA fantasy: Landesberg better stay in school

Sir Ralph

Now that coach Tony Bennett has suspended Sylven Landesberg for the rest of the season for lacking academic verve, shall we say, everyone is waiting breathlessly to see if the UVA guard will return to school, join the NBA, or play basketball in Europe somewhere. (At least Landesberg hopes everyone is waiting breathlessly.) 

While it's nearly a foregone conclusion that Landesberg will eventually end up in the NBA, before he throws his education down the drain, he might want to consider one thing: Virginia players have not exactly lit up the court in the National Basketball Association. Perhaps a history lesson in order.

Firstly and most famously is "The Dominator": Ralph Sampson. Sure, he was the #1 pick in the 1983 NBA draft, as well he should have been. He was a three-time College Player of the Year, and at 7'4", Sampson should have been able merely to stand under the basket and have a glorious professional career. Alas, it was not to be. 

The man who once had his caricature plastered on cans of orange soda started strong (four-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year) but wasn't destined to be an NBA superstar. 

After being drafted by the Houston Rockets, Sampson had less-than-stellar performances with the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento King, and the Washington Bullets. After a career plagued by back and joint trouble, low scoring, and a swing at another player, Sampson retired from the NBA at age 32. 

Not nearly as famous– but of more recent memory– is Sean Singletary. Much like Landesberg, Singletary was the heart and soul of the Cavaliers' offense, but his standout performance went nearly unnoticed by the NBA. What qualified as a superstar at UVA amounted only to a second round, 42nd pick in the 2008 NBA draft. 

The three-time All-ACC who started every game his freshman year can't be found in Sacramento or Houston or Phoenix. After Charlotte sent Singletary down to the D-League last March, the 76ers signed him in September and waived him in October. These days, the UVA guard who put up 2,079 college points can be found in Spain: he signed with ACB League team Saski Baskonia.

The thing is, even UVA alums who do well in the NBA aren't particularly memorable. I'm sure a lot of people remember Wally Walker, who won two championships in his professional career. But is he anywhere near as famous as Ralph Sampson? Courtney Alexander scored 33 points for the Washington Wizards in a game against the Toronto Raptors, but who remembers that? 

It's not all bad news, though.

• John Crotty was never drafted by the NBA, but nonetheless played 11 years of professional ball and is now an analyst for the Miami Heat.

• Bryant Stith, though not especially noteworthy in his professional basketball career, has embarked on another sport. Being from Emporia, it was only natural that Stith would end up as part owner of a NASCAR team.

• Olden Polynice may have been traded for Scottie Pippen, but he did play in the NBA for 15 years. That's pretty good.

History is against Sylven Landesberg when it comes to succeeding as a professional basketball player (though he may not know it if he didn't go to class very often). If he had taken the time to study the history of college basketball, he might understand that if even Duke's superstars stick around to get degrees, he has absolutely no business jeopardizing his own education.

If he had really applied himself and delved into the specific history of UVA basketball, Landesberg would probably have done everything he could to extend his education, not curtail it. Surely he would be hunkering down for the GREs right now if he had given any thought to Ralph Sampson's NBA fate.  

The though of ending up like Ralph Sampson makes me a little breathless– what about you?


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.