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04/03/2014

Uncomfortable questions for Clark Kellogg

DALLAS, Texas - You likely don't recall but there was a day when Clark Kellogg was a damn good NBA player. Drafted eighth overall by the Indiana Pacers in '82 out of Ohio State, a knee injury ruined a potential Hall of Fame career.

2067-58FrIn his first three NBA seasons:  20.1 pgg., 10.6 rpg.; 19.1 ppg., 9.1 rpg.; 18.6 ppg., 9.4 rpg.

A knee injury sustained in the 1985-'86 season forced him to retire at the age of 25, thus robbing the Pacers of an important piece, and fans the chance to enjoy one of that era's more talented players. He was Bernard King without the great finish.

Today, Kellogg has made himself into a terriffic analyst for CBS, and is also a member of the Pacers' front office who works in player development. Full disclosure - Having been raised in Indiana, I was a Clark Kellogg fan; he was a great player.

Clark was at Bracket Town in downtown Dallas on Thursday morning, and he was nice enough to give me some time.

I hate this one-and-done era, but what can really be done about it? Each institution has an opportunity to build their own programs. Clearly Kentucky is in the mode of trying to get the very best players they can, knowing that many of them are going to leave; they are going to invest in them while they are here and try to get them to invest in us. Not all guys do that; some guys have one foot in, one foot out. It’s terrible. Academically, it’s a farce and hypocritical. Even athletically to some degree. It’s like a mercenary type of hire. That rubs against the grain for me personally.
But it’s the smallest percentage of the guys, but it’s the highest profile players and programs. It’s a small number of guys who leave after one year. 

P1.kelloggThose guys aren’t even making it in the NBA, though. If you are going to make that decision, then you should have the freedom to suffer the consequences of it as well. As sad as that may be. If you go in there half-cocked, and listening to fantasy information, and some of it is you are 18 or 19 and think you are invincible.
But so many of these kids don’t understand how much harder it is to be a pro. They only see the glamour, the paycheck, the commercials, the games. They don’t see everything that goes into being a pro. This is not just in basketball. It’s the digital millenials who expect to be at the highest level of whatever yesterday.

Do you think you could have gone from high school to the pros? I don’t think I could have. 

And you were good. I was really good, and I spent time in the summers playing some games against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I had some semblance of what the pros were. I knew if I could get working, and being able to go up and down with those guys when they were going at 40 or 50 percent and were encouraging me to keep working. I had a stable home. But I got a real sense of what turning pro would require and I thought, ‘I can’t do this now.’”

One of the reasons for the age limit was to get agents out of the high school gym; did it work? I think it did but it does not get agents out of the equation. They are around and that is the reality. That is not all bad – they are part of the process of going to the pros. How they sink their claws into kids and families is bad. This process starts when a kid is identified as a 12-year-old. 

Darryl_dawkinsHow can you possibly know what a guy is going to be at 12? I’m with you, but seventh or eighth grade, I was ahead of guys my age. Start as a freshman in high school, but that is when you start separating yourself.
Quite honestly, the erosion of the family structure contributes to this. So many of the parents are young themselves and not seasoned in life and decision making. They are privy to people telling them what they want to hear and not being able to evaluate. 

Clark, that perpetrates a negative racial stereotype. It probably does, but part of stereotypes are true. The reality is a number of African-American kids, unfortunately, and not all, do come from dysfunctional or single-parent homes. There are kids that come out of those homes that have been superb, in every way. Mature, academically inclined, athletic – you have exceptions in every category.
But the fact is some of our kids have younger parents and that impacts how they decide things.
Plus, our culture – 24-hour news cycle, instant fame for meaningless things – all of that impacts how kids view that and view the world. Therefore you end up with these byproducts: Poor decision making, rushing to grab a check without any of the realities of the demands of what comes with it.  We have a player development in the NBA that continues to get bigger; guys don’t realize what the responsibilities are of being a professional player.
The younger guys see playing, dollar signs, lifestyle. It’s a Fantasy Island job, but it is still a job. 

OK – toughest player you played against? Bernard King; he was really good. 

Favorite player to play against? It was fun to play against the Lakers, the Celtics and the 76ers. The Celtics had Bird, McHale, and Parrish and Dennis Johnson. They were so good. We could rarely beat them. Those teams were the barometers of the league so that was always fun.

Who was better – Magic or Bird. That’s an impossible question. Yeah, it is. It is. They were so good at what they did. Bird was a forward who could pass and see and rebound. Magic was a 6-9 point guard. 

Did Bird trash talk you? Not trash talk but mumble things to you. Like, ‘Get your hands off me.’ Or, ‘You can’t guard me.’

What do you do for the Capital One Cup? I am on the advisory board. I have been since the inception in 2011, and it’s a terrific way to shine a spotlight on multiple sports on the Division I level in men’s and women’s sports, but it’s the chance for Capital One to support the educational aspirations of scholarship athletes. The winner of the Capital One Trophy gets a combined $400,000 in student scholarship money. Right now, Florida is in the lead and could conceivably win another one. 

Twitter @MacEngelProf

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