Judging what is best for Wally

TSR's Mike Shepherd takes a deeper look at Wally Judge's two finalists

Certainly life seems like an easy thing when you are a five-star elite basketball player in High School. You play a year or two of college ball, have praise from all the media outlets, Dick Vitale calls out your name when he lends one of his by-now tiresome labels to one or two of your dunks, the world is at your feet and you are just now wondering which team will take you come the NBA draft in June. Ah, if life only worked the way we plan on things.

I am sure that Wally Judge had pretty much this same vision when he elected to attend Kansas State. They are an up-and-coming program under Frank Martin. His AAU people directed him there pretty much to follow in the footsteps of Michael Beasley, another Wildcat from the local area who was drafted number two in the NBA draft. With hard work, given the tools that Wally Judge had to work with, it would be basically a given. Yet after two years, there seemed to place to go at Kansas State and under Frank Martin, whose sideline demeanor resembles that of the team logo, a wildcat to be sure.

Rather than just throwing his name in the NBA draft pool and probably ending up in Europe at best, Judge has decided to transfer to another school. It seems that he is making a truly good decision to further his education while trying to find another basketball situation that fits him best. At this juncture, he is at a crossroads it seems, to select Maryland or Rutgers. Each has its own good points and bad points, so the decision is not an easy one. And the decision at times does not seem to be his own, as there are many proponents for both schools seemingly in Judge's ear. The decision will probably be made soon, so as fans, we can only wonder what it will come down to.

In terms of education, each school is a top notch college and highly respected in the business world. Based solely on what Judge can get from each university in terms of learning, that is probably pretty equal. I am sure each school has fine teachers, fine counselors and an academic foundation in place for any scholarship athlete to find success. Like basketball, most students get from education the work ethic they put in.

In basketball terms, generally speaking, both teams have a great need for Judge's potential on the court. Rutgers is coming off a very rough season in which they were 15-17, losing 13 of 18 games in league play. They have had their share of troubles, with their two highest profile recruits leaving the school, Mike Rosario to Florida and Greg Echenique to Creighton, in the past two years. They have yet to make any mark in the Big East and any potential player like Judge would no doubt get the minutes and the chance to be the focal point of the Rutgers' offense.

Maryland struggled last year. They finished 19-14, going 7-9 in conference in what was supposedly a down year for the ACC. They had problems finishing games and eventually were betrayed by their inability to get the one quality win that a team needs to get the NCAA committee's attention. They were even bypassed by the NIT Selection board, the ultimate in slights (but that assuredly is another story). Maryland will lose the hub of its offense to the NBA Draft now, with Jordan Williams having retained an agent. So of the two choices, I would say Wally Judge will definitely get the chance to be a star and bear the brunt of the load on offense and the glass where ever he lands.

Other than the resume of success Maryland has had under Gary Williams, the slate is kind of even in terms of what basketball situation Judge will be entering, assuming he can play in 2011. Now that brings us to the finer points of the matter. There seems to be some promise that Judge can get a hardship waiver, allowing him to play in 2011. This waiver would be decidedly influenced if he played closer to home, advantage Maryland. Judge reportedly wants to make sure that there is a better relationship with the coaching staff and has a known factor in David Cox, assistant at Rutgers who coached Wally when he was playing for DC Assault, advantage Rutgers.

That would seem to be the most divisive issue here, the comfort level for Wally Judge when he makes the decision. Having played under Frank Martin, one gets the impression that Judge definitely wants a more “peaceful and serene” place to play. We all know that Gary's image is that of an intense sideline coach, but in practice and in the day-to-day, Gary Williams is as good a teacher, as relaxed a coach as there is. I think Judge and anyone who has read with any depth about Maryland basketball knows this. I am sure anyone recruiting against Gary Williams makes a point in painting the coach as a psychotic abusive lunatic but to mistake intensity for abusiveness is nonsense and downright underhanded by others. Personally, I think Maryland is always a contender for the NCAA tournament and feel Judge would be stepping into a better situation with the Terps. He would get better television exposure and be with a coach that has indeed put players into the NBA. And the key is that the players that Coach Williams has put into the NBA were not all five-star specials like Judge was coming out of High School. Tony Massenburg, Walt Williams, Steve Blake, Juan Dixon, Vasquez and now Jordan Williams were not considered NBA quality players coming into Maryland. Every so often an elite player like Steve Francis and Chris Wilcox comes to Gary and they go early, but not the likes of the talent factories that Duke, Kentucky and UNC churn out. They work with simple math, get five or so elite players, two of the group make it and suddenly they are geniuses at getting players to the league.

Anyway, the decision is not easy. I hope Judge chooses what works best for him because he will have to live with it for at least a year (possibly two if he must sit for 2011). He was steered once by his DCA people to Kansas State, which did not exactly work for the best. Why not be steered by what you think is best for yourself, Wally, only you can be the judge of that this time.

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