As a (sometimes) blogger for a site dedicated to Baylor athletics, I'm certainly biased towards wanting to see Baylor athletics excel and maximize their chances at success. However, one of the differences between college sports and professional sports is that we often develop a much stronger attachment to players and cheer for them to succeed in a similar way to how we would cheer for a family member. The connection that we have to student-athletes who graduate from our alma mater is one of the unique things that make college sports great.
It's not unusual for us to want the best for a player, even if that isn't what's best for Baylor. If Robert Griffin III had come back for another year, Baylor would likely be a preseason Top 15 team and a Big 12 Contender. Even though every Baylor student and alumnus would have loved watching Robert once again don the Green and Gold (especially instead of that horrific burgundy), the impression that I get is that most knew that it was time for Robert to move on. Similarly, Perry Jones III surprised us when he decided to come back for 2011-12, but I think most understand that now probably the ideal time for him to move on to the NBA. It sounds like Perry loved his time at Baylor and gave some thought to staying another year, but given some of the trials facing his family, it makes the most sense to sign that first NBA contract (and sponsorship deal) to help them out.
And then we come to Quincy Miller. If you had told me at the start of the year if I would be surprised if Quincy left after just one year, I would not have been surprised in the least. A somewhat unfortunate aspect of the way the rules are set up right now is that "one and done's" are fairly common; then again, it's courting these same players that have elevated Baylor to the level where it currently resides.
However, given what actually happened over the course of the season, I no longer think it made sense for Miller to leave. A large majority of the mock drafts that are being put out right now agree with this. After the jump, we'll take a look at why it would have been better for Quincy to stay...
Performance. Quincy Miller came into this year with enough hype that, assuming he showed that he had recovered from the ACL injury, he was expected to be a lottery pick in this year's draft. However, one of the main reasons why Quincy finds his draft stock sliding is that he didn't have enough performances where he showed what he is capable of, both athletically and in terms of filling up the box score. Interviews with Quincy suggest that even though he felt much better as the season went along, he just didn't seem to be fully confident in being back at 100% health. Given the nature of ACL injuries and their usual recovery period, this isn't particularly surprising. However, this would have provided a great reason to come back to Baylor for another year. Eliminate any doubts regarding the injury from his own mind and in the minds of scouts and he would be much more likely to jump back into the lottery.
Draft Placement. The major factor in making the decision about whether or not to go pro revolves around where a player is likely to be drafted. This is no surprise. However, the important aspect that has not received enough attention is it's not just where a player would be projected that matters; it also matters what you compare it to and what the baseline of expectations is. Though he had aspirations for the lottery, Quincy Miller now appears to be a late first round pick who could potentially slide into the second round (where the contracts become much less friendly). One of the reasons for his slide is the strength of this draft class, which is basically made up of 1.5 to 2 draft classes worth of elite talent due to so many players staying in college because of uncertainty around the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. In other words, Quincy would have a much better shot at hitting the lottery if players like Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, etc were not in it. While looking too far into the future is always difficult, it appears that the 2013 draft class is going to be significantly weaker than this draft class. Even if Quincy Miller didn't have a phenomenal season for Baylor in 2012-13, he would likely be a lottery pick based on potential alone.
Potential Performance of Next Year's Baylor Team. It's no secret that playing for a good college team that makes a deep Tourney run allows players to rise up draft boards as the nation becomes more familiar with them. To that end, Baylor is bringing in one of the best draft classes in the country and with Quincy Miller on the team, Baylor would have entered the season as a Preseason Top 10 team. Moreover, the talent being brought in would have been a much better complement to Quincy's skills than this past year's team. While Perry had varying degrees of comfort in playing close to the rim as a 4, there will be no such concerns about the incoming 7'0, 215 lb Center Isaiah Austin. Miller would be the clear #1 scoring option on most nights, with Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, Austin and Co serving as a fantastically complementary group of players for Miller. This assumes that Miller would be more comfortable and aggressive on the court with his injury worries in the past, but there was a very real potential for Miller to headline a major conference contender and one of the best teams in the country.
Be a Man of Your Word. I admit, this is more of a personal issue. When Quincy Miller was deciding whether or not he would stay, I was hoping that he would, but would bear no ill feelings if he decided to go. At the time, he was still thought of as a potential lottery pick and it was always the expectation that he would leave. I thought it would be better for him and Baylor if he stayed, but I understand that he has other things to consider. When he announced with much fanfare that he would be staying, I was happy for everybody involved. It was a moment worth the press conference and excitement that surrounded it. That he decided so quickly after this moment to change his mind frustrates me. Perhaps something changed significantly in the intervening time, but given the information that we have, I can not help but be disappointed in Quincy. I don't think he's starved for attention the way some kids in the Social Media Age are; I don't think that this makes him a terrible person; I don't think this means that he feels no bond to Baylor or that he didn't struggle making the decision.
Still, I hope that Quincy learns the value of being trustworthy and keeping his word in the future, just as I hope that he comes back to revisit and reconnect with his Baylor family.