Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Satterfield should keep escape route




columnist
        Kenny Satterfield should test the waters. He should stick in his big toe and gauge the temperature of big-time basketball. He should wade in gradually and determine if he's going to be out of his depth.

        He should find out how far the tides will take him, but hold on to his life preserver just in case. He should actively explore his possibilities in the NBA, provided he keeps an escape route open.

        The University of Cincinnati's freshman point guard is entitled — and should be encouraged — to determine his readiness for the NBA. He should attend the predraft camp to assess the competition and the state of his own game. He should seek out objective opinion and ascertain exactly where he stands before making an irreversible decision on the draft.

        The fear around Bearcat basketball, however, is that those who would reason with Satterfield aren't being heard; that he is resolved to turn pro — ready or not; that he would test the waters in cement sneakers.

Have fall-back plan
        There's nothing wrong with getting a professional appraisal, so long as it carries no obligation. Kenny Satterfield has as much right to determine his value as a pro basketball prospect as Joe Fan has to solicit bids on his late-model Lumina.

        It only becomes a problem if Satterfield forsakes the right to come to his senses — if he signs with an agent, allows his expenses to be paid, or rejects sound advice because it conflicts with his ambition. Testing the waters only becomes a problem if Satterfield came to UC incapable of being educated.

        But if he's as street-smart and intuitive as he seems to be, Kenny Satterfield may realize during the predraft camp that his game is still raw where it needs refinement. He is a point guard with more quickness than control, more nerve than size, more talent than touch. He is neither a serious NBA scoring threat nor a polished distributor at this stage of the game. He is a player who projects enormous potential, much if it still untapped. He is probably at least one year away.

        DerMarr Johnson's draft declaration was, at best, premature. Satterfield's would amount to hubris. Like many young athletes, he has been conditioned to believe there's no reason to defer one's dreams — that everything comes to those who can't wait. What he ought to remember is that for every Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, there are a dozen gifted players who fade too soon because they turn pro too early.

        Whatever happened to Dontonio Wingfield, anyway?

Underclassmen abound
        If Kenny Satterfield is smart, he will leave himself an exit strategy. He should take his shot with an open mind, prepared for the possibility that the draft camp competition may be more advanced than he anticipates. If he's ready to play at the next level, he will know it. If he's not ready, he should admit it.

        Twenty-two underclassmen have thus far declared their intention to take the pre-draft proficiency test. Many of them have already ruled out a change of heart by employing an agent and/or dropping out of school. But Satterfield, so far as we know, is still eligible to play for the Bearcats next winter. This much should be heartening to Bob Huggins.

        A wise man keeps his options open until he is compelled to make a choice. A clever point guard can dominate a game with good decisions. Satterfield made it this far because his timing is right more often than it is rash.

        If he wants to test the waters, fine. But he should not yet lose sight of the safety of the shore.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com

Satterfield may try NBA