Bob Lutz

The dream becomes nightmare

I had a dream the other night in which I was a supremely gifted high school basketball player, pursued by all of the nation's elite. In my dream, I played in some pickup games and every coach who was anyone showed up. Except that the doors were locked, the janitor didn't have the keys, my mom developed abdominal pains and the whole thing had to be scrapped as the frustrated coaches re-arranged travel plans.

It was a mess. But I digress.

In my dream, I was a one-and-done college basketball player. College, for me, was just a pit stop on the way to the riches of the NBA. I was bitter that I had to mess with college because from the time I was a tot I knew what it was I wanted to do. I wanted to play with the best of the best, drive fancy cars and live in a 10-bedroom house.

I could do it all on the basketball court and some of the best-known recruiting services (in my dream, 7 of 10 Americans ran a recruiting service) called me the second coming of LeBron James. I was 6-foot-8, could pass the ball like Magic Johnson and shoot it like Larry Bird. Which, I suppose, accounted from my nickname: The Magic Bird.

My high school averages were astonishing: 34 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists. That I was able to average 34 points and dish out 15 assists in a game played in 32 minutes might seem a little over the top, but it's my dream.

Schools started recruiting me when I was about halfway through learning the alphabet. During the first visit from Kentucky coach John Calipari, he not only tried to sell me on his school, but changed my diaper. It was an awkward moment for my parents, believe me.

At first, I wanted to go to Austin Peay because I appreciated bathroom humor. But when I found out where Austin Peay was — actually, I didn't know where it was, not in my dream and not now in real life — I opted not to go there.

Before the 12th game of my junior season, I held a news conference in my high school gym and everybody came. Chris Berman was there. So was Erin Andrews. And Lee Corso, who wandered off toward the cafeteria as I was getting ready to make my announcement.

I wasn't sure why Corso, a football guy, showed up. But it was cool having so many people on hand.

My parents were seated in the first row while my coach spoke about me in glowing terms. Finally, the microphone was mine.

"Thanks for coming, everyone,'' I started. "Don't forget to sign the guest book." Dreams are strange, aren't they?

Anyway, I chose Kansas. Ultimately, staying in my home state was important to me and who wouldn't want to play for the Jayhawks? They were a perennial Top 10 team and the most prolific recruiter of one-and-done players in the country.

In a video hook-up, KU coach Bill Self spoke about how much my commitment meant to the Jayhawks and how there was a brand-new Corvette waiting for me outside of Allen Fieldhouse. In my dream, the NCAA had gone belly up.

Immediately, other coaches alleged wrongdoing, then remembered there were no rules and went back to finding ways to cheat.

I didn't care. I just wanted to play a season at Kansas and be the NBA's top draft pick.

During my news conference, I was asked many questions. Most were about my enormous basketball skills, but one guy had the audacity to ask me about what classes I might take.

"Class?" I responded in my best Allen Iverson. "We talkin' 'bout class? You tellin' me that I've just made the biggest decision of my life and we talkin' 'bout class?" My people escorted that man from the room and I was never asked about class again.

I'm proud to say that in my dream, I never attended a class. However, in an effort to be cool, I did declare a major. I looked through the entire Kansas student handbook and chose molecular biology because I thought it might help with the ladies.

Later on, I discovered the ladies weren't really into molecular biology, but it was too late for me to change.

My coach and my academic advisers pleaded with me to attend class during my first semester, in which I was enrolled in 12 hours: State Capitals, Ending With a Vowel, Name the Fish and Molecular Biology. In my dream, Alex Trebek was KU's chancellor.

My dream was rolling right along until I started to play basketball and discovered I didn't have it anymore. What's going on here? I was supposed to be a can't-miss prospect and I was averaging 3.7 points and hadn't had a rebound all season.

The season ended and people wouldn't look at me on the street. The NBA Draft came and went and my name wasn't called. Self politely, almost enthusiastically, told me I was academically ineligible and I came to the realization that I had nothing to show from my college basketball experience. Except that I knew the capital of North Dakota.