Friday, April 17, 2020

Draft Night

Who were the two best Princeton men's basketball players between 2000 and 2005?

If you did a poll, you'd find out that Chris Young and Will Venable would get a lot of votes.

Interestingly, both went on to long careers as professional athletes - though not in basketball. Both Young and Venable were Major League Baseball players, and how many schools can say that their best basketball players ended up being Major Leaguers?

For that matter, Bill Bradley was also a great baseball player in high school and on the Princeton freshman team, though his career in that sport ended there.

Young was a righthanded pitcher, all 6-11 of him. His 13-year career, spent with five different teams,  included an All-Star Game appearance, an American League Comeback Player of the Year award and, best of all, a World Series ring with Kansas City in 2015 in which he was the Game 1 winner with three clutch relief innings in what became a 14-inning victory.

As for Venable, he played almost his entire nine-year career with the San Diego Padres. He finished with a .249 career batting average, as well as 81 home runs and 135 stolen bases. He had at least 22 stolen bases in four straight years; only 18 players in all of Major League Baseball stole 22 or more last year.

TigerBlog has written this before, but Venable might be the most underrated men's basketball player Princeton has had in the 30-plus years he's been following the program. There were so many nights where he was the best player on both ends of the court, and he played with intensity and effort at all times.

If you want to compare him to someone, he was a slightly less physical and slightly quicker version of Myles Stephens. Like Stephens, they could both guard pretty much any player on the other team regardless of position.

Of course, Venable was also a great baseball player. He crushed more than one home run at Clarke Field that went way past the rightfield fence, and TB remembers hearing about one that he drilled at Penn that landed on some highway somewhere.

These days, he's the third base coach of the Chicago Cubs. His name has already been in the  mix for managerial jobs, this past off-season with the Houston Astros for instance.

He also was a guest on a team Zoom call with the Princeton baseball team the other day.

In keeping with the basketball theme of the week and today's look at Princeton basketball players-turned-professional athletes, tonight is the WNBA draft.

You can watch it live on ESPN at 7 Eastern. When was the last time you could watch something live on ESPN?

The interest for Princeton fans, of course, is that Bella Alarie figures to be a first-round pick. Alarie, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history with 1,703 points, should hear her name called relatively quickly if the mock drafts are correct.

Princeton has had one player selected in the WNBA draft before, and that was Leslie Robinson two years ago. Blake Dietrick, undrafted out of Princeton, has played for four different WNBA teams since being the 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year.

The Princeton men's program has produced three first-round NBA draft choices, and Bill Bradley wasn't one of them. Bradley, who won two NBA titles with the Knicks (and in 1973 was on what is still their most recent championship team) was a territorial pick, which meant that prior to the start of the draft (and forfeiting their first round pick), teams could select players who played in college within 50 miles of their home arena. The territorial draft was eliminated after 1965, the year the Knicks took Bradley.

That left Princeton with three first-rounders: Geoff Petrie (eight pick in 1970), John Hummer (15th pick in 1970) and Armond Hill (ninth pick in 1976). 

The three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, Alarie has been touted as a future WNBA player her entire Princeton career. In case you're wondering how much WNBA players make, TB saw this in a story:
Players selected with the first four picks receive a base salary of $68,000. Players chosen fifth through eighth receive $65,250 and the rest of the first-round picks would earn $62,500.
The new CBA also boosted the average salary up to $130,000 and the max to $215,000.

TB has seen a few mock drafts, and they all appear to have Alarie in the nine to 11 range. This is from the mock draft, which had her going 10th:
Alarie finished the season averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Tigers, who went 26-1. At 6-4, she has guard skills and should be able to fit well into any offense. 

In any event, it's a live event, something to watch on TV tonight. And a chance to see Alarie take the first step towards the next big phase of her basketball career.

1 comment:

Mike Knorr said...

I'm pretty sure Bill Bradley played varsity baseball his Sophomore year and hit around .330 if I remember correctly.