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Wednesday February 7, 2001

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Hey Gil, got a minute?

Headline Photo

By Maxx Wolfson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dear Gilbert Arenas,

There's something we've got to talk about. Decision time is coming.

I know you've got the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference schedule left and a likely trip to the NCAA tournament following it, but you know that people are already talking about next year.

For instance, are you coming back for your junior season or heading to the NBA?

Leaving early probably wouldn't surprise anyone. Hell, Darius Miles came out early last year, and he was, like, 14-years-old.

Could I blame you for leaving early?

No, not really. I know I couldn't turn down millions of dollars to play basketball. But just listen to me for a second.

I'm sure you're familiar with Duke point guard Jason Williams, arguably the best player in the country.

Earlier this week, Williams put all rumors to rest that he was heading for "greener" pastures after the season by saying that - get this - he would not only be back for his junior season but that he'll stay for his senior year, too.


He said that he wanted to get a degree and wouldn't want speculation surrounding his future in the NBA - where he was projected to be drafted anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 overall - to effect his team come tournament time.

If this is true, I applaud him.

Hopefully, some players - wink wink Gilbert - will look at what Williams did and consider staying in school.

I'm sure Corey Maggette wishes he did. Remember him? He'd be a junior in college now.

Two years ago, Maggette, a former Blue Devil and current Los Angeles Clippers bench warmer, decided to skip his final three seasons at Duke and try to hang with the big boys in the NBA.

As much as I hate to say this - after all, I am a Clippers fan- sitting at the end of the L.A. bench is hardly a great way to start off your NBA career.

Maggette, Elton Brand and William Avery remain the only three players in the history of Duke basketball to leave school early.

But, you say, Duke has had some great players. Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley come to mind. Why didn't they leave?

The reason is Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, plain and simple.

When players sign at Duke, they feel obligated to play for "Coach K" for four full seasons. When players leave early, they let him down. In fact, when Avery left, "Coach K" reportedly told the kid's mother - his mother! - that Avery's leaving was "going to f#@k my program."

Coach Olson might not say so, but I'm sure he feels the same way.

There is so much you can learn by staying in college for another year or two - just ask former UCLA Bruins Jerome Moiso or JaRon Rush. Rush is now playing in ABA 2000 alongside Toby Bailey and Ed O'Bannon. Do you want to end up there?

Give "Coach O" another year to help you not just become a better basketball player but a better person. Let him teach you how to succeed after life in the NBA.

Try this: make some goals for next year - like winning the Wooden Award and bringing home a national title - and see just what you're capable of. We've only seen flashes of what you can do in your two years here.

So come on Gil, how about staying next year?

You can hang out with your boys Jason Gardner and Luke Walton for another year, and then enter the NBA as a lottery pick in the 2002 - or 2003 - draft.

How does that sound?