Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dimming All-Stars

Time changes everything. If it didn't, you'd be reading this by gaslight.

And so when the news came down that two Indiana All-Stars, including Mr. Basketball Caleb Swanigan of Homestead, would be skipping the longstanding Indiana-Kentucky All-Star soiree, there was no surprise attached to the news, only a sad smile and a nod of recognition. Times change. Priorities change. What once had cache now only gets in the way.

For Swanigan, the All-Star series got in the way of tryouts for the U.S. National U-19 team, and, really, there was no choice there to be made. It's a chance to play for a national team vs. an All-Star event that, let's face it, is just going through the motions anymore. A no-brainer.

Ditto for Michigan City Marquette's Ryan Fazekas, another All-Star who won't be around. His classes at Providence are already starting, so off he'll go. Education, and the future, trump the past and mere trumpery every time.

Not there isn't a tinge of sadness that attends all this, or perhaps just nostalgia. Once upon a time, the Indiana-Kentucky series actually meant something, and making the Indiana All-Star team was the highest basketball honor a senior in either state could imagine. But that was before all the McDonald's All-American games, and the corporate swamp of AAU ball, and the altered landscape of recruiting, which now places more value on what a kid does in all those glorified pickup games in the summer than what he does playing for his high school team in the winter.

I suspect it's a good thing these days that the Indiana-Kentucky series is limited to seniors. Because if it weren't, you'd see a lot more defections among the underclassmen still being wooed by the Dukes and Kentuckys and Michigan States, and who'd doubtless consider Indiana-Kentucky two weeks of valuable time wasted.

  Which makes me wonder if maybe the entire event hasn't outlived itself. It hasn't drawn flies in Kentucky in years. I used to think that meant Kentucky just didn't care as much about a series that, after all, has by and large been dominated by Indiana. But now?

Now I wonder if Kentucky wasn't just ahead of the curve.  And of the times.

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