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Traxler: Time provides perspective on Classic greats

It was almost exactly 18 months ago that Trevon Duval electrified the Corn Palace at the Mike Miller Classic. A dynamic point guard with the ability to score, pass and steal, Duval and his IMG Academy teammates left the Palace excited and signed ...

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It was almost exactly 18 months ago that Trevon Duval electrified the Corn Palace at the Mike Miller Classic.

A dynamic point guard with the ability to score, pass and steal, Duval and his IMG Academy teammates left the Palace excited and signed autographs for kids in the locker room after the game. On Dec. 29, 2016, after a 90-51 win over DeLaSalle (Minn.), we didn’t know Duval was headed for Duke yet but he looked the part of someone could be a one-and-done player in college, bound for the NBA.

On Thursday, expectations didn’t meet reality. Duval struggled at Duke and he wasn’t one of the 60 picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s the first one-and-done player in Blue Devils history to go undrafted, on a night when his four starting lineup cohorts all went in the first 37 picks. If nothing else, it also drives home how difficult it is to get drafted in the NBA.

The Mike Miller Classic (now the Hoop City Classic starting this December) has always been one of my favorite events on the calendar because it’s a rare chance to see elite talent in our backyard. But it’s a complete shooting star, in terms of a player’s career.

This is not meant to be an indictment of Duval. In his young career, so much has changed in 18 months. Duval has tremendous athletic ability and talent, so he’s going to be able to make a professional career out of that alone. Personally, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have at least a cup of coffee in the NBA, because the talent is there.

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Plus, the NBA Draft is an inexact science. A quick look at the 2015 NBA picks shows two all-stars - Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis - some middling rotation players and a pile of second-round picks that have never played in the league three years later.

On the contrary, Joel Embiid came to the Corn Palace in December 2012 and scored 19 points per game over three games. Playing for The Rock, of Florida, Embiid was a special talent as a high school junior, but how could anyone have predicted he would be one of the faces of the NBA in just six years and at the core of a young Philadelphia team that could soon be at the top of the league. He missed his first two years with the Sixers with foot problems, and his career could have just as easily gone in the other direction.

Another great example of time passing is Reid Travis. He had two 30-point games at the same Classic in 2012 for DeLaSalle (Minnesota) and was a top-50 national recruit prior to heading to Stanford in 2014. (Fun fact: Towns and Travis were in the same recruiting class.) Travis has had four solid years with the Cardinal but has been mostly under the national radar and passed on the draft earlier this year to transfer as a graduate student this upcoming season to Kentucky. The Wildcats will likely be your preseason No. 1 heading to a new college basketball season.  

Fans and media love evaluating the prospects that come to town for the annual Mike Miller/Hoop City Classic, and that won’t stop when the event arrives in December again, looking at a player’s future and wonder what could happen. If we can afford taking five years to evaluate Embiid and Travis, Duval deserves the same.

Thursday’s draft was a great reminder that time is an important evaluating tool, as well.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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