Grant Hill responds to “The Fab Five”

In the ESPN documentary “The Fab Five,” Jalen Rose and his teammates made a few comments about the Duke basketball program. The most inflammatory was that the black Duke players were “Uncle Toms.” Grant Hill’s name was brought up, and Hill has since responded via the New York Times’ college sports blog.

My teammates at Duke — all of them, black and white — were a band of brothers who came together to play at the highest level for the best coach in basketball. I know most of the black players who preceded and followed me at Duke. They all contribute to our tradition of excellence on the court.

It is insulting and ignorant to suggest that men like Johnny Dawkins (coach at Stanford), Tommy Amaker (coach at Harvard), Billy King (general manager of the Nets), Tony Lang (coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in Japan), Thomas Hill (small-business owner in Texas), Jeff Capel (former coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth), Kenny Blakeney (assistant coach at Harvard), Jay Williams (ESPN analyst), Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies) and Chris Duhon (Orlando Magic) ever sold out their race.

To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous. All of us are extremely proud of the current Duke team, especially Nolan Smith. He was raised by his mother, plays in memory of his late father and carries himself with the pride and confidence that they instilled in him.

Well said, Grant.

In a recent column, FoxSports columnist Jason Whitlock took the Fab Five to task for saying such things:

The Fab Five clearly believe Coach K and Duke didn’t and don’t recruit inner-city black kids, and they believe race/racism/elitism are the driving forces behind the philosophy.

Let’s go back to the Fab Five era and Duke’s philosophy then. Coach K recruited kids who had every intention of staying in school for four years. He recruited kids who had a good chance of competing academically at Duke and could meet the standardized test score qualifications for entrance.

The Fab Five stated it was their intention to win a national championship and turn pro as a group after their sophomore season. Webber, who was recruited by Duke, left Michigan after two years. Rose and Howard left as juniors. Impoverished inner-city kids have good reason to turn pro early. I’m not knocking Webber, Howard and Rose for their decisions. They didn’t fit the Duke profile at the time.

During the three-year run of the Fab Five (one season without Webber), Duke beat Michigan all four times the schools met while winning two ACC titles and one NCAA title. During the same span, Michigan won zero conference or national titles. In addition, Webber’s interactions with booster Ed Martin put the program on probation and caused Michigan to forfeit all its games.

I think Coach K recruited and recruits the right kids for Duke.

It turns out that Jalen Rose was the executive producer of the documentary, so it would be tough to argue that his words were taken out of context.

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A few random thoughts about “The Fab Five”

ESPN is currently running a two-hour documentary about Michigan’s Fab Five (Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d definitely recommend it. Webber didn’t agree to participate, but the interviews with the other four members along with members of the coaching staff were quite compelling.

Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with comments made by the former Michigan players about Duke and especially Christian Laettner, whom Rose thought was an “overrated pu**y,” until he actually played against him and saw that he had some serious game. I’ll leave those comments alone since Rose eventually gave Laettner credit, but there are a few other moments in the documentary that jumped out at me:

1. Rose hated Duke because they wouldn’t recruit someone like him; they only recruited “Uncle Tom”-type black players. He also admitted he hated Grant Hill because Hill grew up in a great home while Rose grew up poor with an absentee father. Rose probably hit the nail on the head with regard to why many inner city blacks resent/criticize suburban blacks; it’s out of envy. They see lives that are more comfortable than theirs, and they lash out in anger. The Fab Five translated this to a hatred of the Duke players, including guys like Grant Hill and Thomas Hill.

I suspect if Mike Krzyzewski were asked about his recruiting habits and answered honestly, he’d say that he had the luxury of recruiting players (of whatever race) that he thought would fit into his team-first concept. He already had a successful college program, so why recruit a ‘risky’ player like Rose who may or may not fit into what he’s trying to build? The last thing he wants is to have a to battle a player on a daily basis.

In the end, Duke was 3-0 against the Fab Five, so I’d say the Blue Devils got the last laugh.

2. Forget the shorts, shoes, socks or even the style of play. The thing that bothered me about the Fab Five was the in-your-face taunting. The film was great because it reminded me of what I didn’t like about the Fab Five. Their play was outstanding. Nobody hogged the ball and winning was paramount, so from a pure basketball respect, they were wonderful. It was all the antics that drove me nuts. There were several highlights that showed the players getting into the face of the opponent after the guy was just dunked on. It’s one thing to over-celebrate with your teammates, but to show up an opponent like that is just bad sportsmanship. This was explained away as being part of the inner city playground culture, but my guess is that if they would have gotten into someone’s face on the playground, they would have been punched in the nose (or worse). At the time, officials didn’t really call taunting technicals, so there were no consequences to those actions. Oh, and Juwan Howard was the worst. Webber or Rose would dunk and there comes Howard, getting into the grill of the guy who just got dunked on. It was no surprise that against Ohio St. in their first Final Four, Howard got headbutt to the nose at one point in the game.

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It’s a good day to be a college basketball fan

Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) talks with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill head coach Roy Williams prior to the teams’ NCAA basketball game in Durham, North Carolina February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Check out this lineup of college hoops today (all times ET):

12 PM: #2 Kansas @ #24 Missouri (CBS)
The Jayhawks need a victory in Columbia to win the Big 12 outright. They have a one-game lead over Texas with one game to play and are hoping to secure a #1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament as well. Meanwhile, Missouri is hoping to complete an unbeaten season at home.

2 PM: #7 Notre Dame @ #16 UConn (ESPN)
It’s senior night for the Huskies, who have beaten the Irish seven straight times at Gampel Pavilion. Notre Dame can earn the #1 seed in the Big East tournament with a win today and a Pittsburgh loss to Villanova.

4 PM: #19 Villanova @ #5 Pittsburgh (CBS)
Villanova has faded after a strong start to the season, but could still spoil the Panthers’ bid to be the top seed in the Big East Championship if they’re able to upset Pitt on their home floor. The Panthers need a win to solidify their bid to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

6 PM: #14 Florida @ #20 Vanderbilt (ESPN)
These two teams went into overtime the first time they met this season and the Gators can clinch the outright SEC title with a win against the Commodores in Nashville.

8 PM: #4 Duke @ #13 North Carolina (CBS)
The ACC regular season championship is on the line as the Blue Devils face the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. In the first meeting at Cameron, UNC had a 16-point lead before Duke came back to win 79-73. Duke is hoping to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and needs a win tonight to round out its resume.

It’s not often that there are five Top 25 matchups lined up every two hours like there are today. And don’t forget, #10 Wisconsin plays #1 Ohio State at 4 PM (on CBS) on Sunday.

Whatever happened to all the dominant Duke big men?

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) questions a call by an official during the second half of his team’s NCAA basketball game against Temple University in Durham, North Carolina February 23, 2011. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Let me throw out a few names: Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Cherokee Parks, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Shelden Williams — what do they have in common? Yes, they all played for Duke, and they all averaged at least 17.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in their final years in Durham. On average, this group posted 19.6 points and 9.0 boards in those years. Ferry, Laettner, Brand and Williams were named First Team All-Americans, while Boozer made the Third Team. Parks could have been an All-American as well had Mike Krzyzewski not missed most of of his senior season due to back surgery and exhaustion. Williams was the last “dominant” Duke big man, and he graduated in 2005-06.

Since then, Duke has seen a string of highly-touted big men come through Cameron, including Shavlik Randolph (who played with Williams), Josh McRoberts, Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Randolph, McRoberts, Mason Plumlee and Kelly were all McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school. Other than maybe McRoberts (13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds), none of these guys have even approached the numbers and success of the aforementioned group.

What has happened to big man development in Durham?

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Kyle Singler trick-shot montage [video]

This should get the Duke haters fired up…

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