I still remember the night Andre Drummond committed to UConn.
Unlike so many other high school superstars, the declaration didn’t come via a big high school press conference, but instead on an otherwise quiet summer night, via an announcement on Twitter of all places. And really, that timing was the most surprising part of all; not just because it happened in the summer, but in the summer of 2011. Drummond had elected to give up an extra year of prep school, and enroll in college immediately. Like, that day.
My buddy Tyler called me that night, and the conversation basically went like this:
Tyler: You sitting down?
Me: Yeah, what’s up?
Tyler: We got Drummond.
Me: What? That’s awesome!
Tyler: No, you don’t understand. We got Drummond right now. For this year.
And really at this point, it’s all a blur. As best I remember, I proceeded to throw the phone in the air, run around and hug strange family members that I otherwise wouldn’t even consider talking to under most circumstances. At least that’s the way I remember it.
Wait, we got Drummond?
I mean for real… WE GOT DRUMMOND?
It was going to be a good year.
*****Only, it wasn’t.
And now, just like that, the Andre Drummond era is over at UConn.
For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Drummond- inarguably the biggest recruit in the history of UConn basketball- announced yesterday that’s he taking his talents to the NBA. Drummond is trading in dorm food for a personal chef, sorority girls for big city groupies, and the wild nightlife of Storrs, Conn., for that of an undisclosed NBA city near you. In the process, he’ll leave behind the 10 points and nearly eight rebounds a game he averaged in his only year at UConn, as well as the largest number of “what could’ve been’s” of any player in recent college basketball history.
Now, for the record, I’m not arguing Drummond should go pro. I would obviously love him stay, more so for his own development than my own personal gratification (I sincerely mean that). At the same time, he’s got a contract that’ll guarantee him eight-figures waiting for him and the team he would’ve returned to in Storrs won’t be eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. For Andre Drummond the economics and emotions of this decision make sense. Simply put, there are a whole bunch of reasons for him to go pro. There aren’t nearly as many good ones to stay at UConn.
But we get set to say good-bye to Drummond, I can’t help but remain just as captivated by the guy as I was that night he committed in August. In his eight months on campus, Andre Drummond was neither really good nor terribly bad, never came close to reaching his potential, yet was someone you couldn’t call a bust either. In every sense of the word, Andre Drummond is a walking paradox.
But to fully wrap your head around the legacy Andre Drummond leaves behind at UConn, we must first go back to his recruitment, and actually go back several years before he ever stepped foot onto campus.
As a matter of fact, my first distinct memory of Andre Drummond actually comes from many years before that, back when I myself had just barely graduated college. At the same time I was sitting in my mom’s kitchen and browsing the newspaper (remember those things?), when I came across an article on this 6’11, 15-year-old playing basketball in Hartford, who was widely considered to be the best freshman basketball player in the country. His name was Andre Drummond, and there’d never been anyone from Connecticut like him.
What’s really interesting though, is that I wasn’t the only one reading the paper that day. Not by a longshot. Nope, just about every UConn fan in every corner of the state was reading that same paper (or some paper like it) and by the time Drummond was 16, he was a household name with UConn fans. We didn’t know much about him, but then again, what did we need to know? He was 16. He was 6’11. And he was in our backyard. UConn had to get him. We just had to.
And as the years went on, and Drummond transferred out of his Hartford high school and to a small prep school in the corner of the state, the mystique only grew. He kept dominating, and in a lot of ways, became Anthony Davis before Anthony Davis; a 6’11, floor-running, shot-blocking, behind-the-back passing big man. Most of us hadn’t seen him play but we’d all read the reports, and in the process Drummond turned into some weird combination of Bigfoot and Moby Dick’s white whale. Had you asked 100 UConn fans if they’d seen Drummond actually play, maybe half a dozen would’ve answered yes. But if you asked how many knew about Drummond, the number would’ve been right around 100.
Those were the circumstances that led to that night last August. And after all that time watching and waiting, hoping for Andre Drummond, UConn fans finally got him on that cool evening last summer. We celebrated, we cheered, we hugged strange family members we don’t even like, and got excited for the Andre Drummond era at UConn.
And just as we really amped up…
… Drummond came to school, played, and now he’s gone.
Just like that.
It happened that fast, with as little pomp and circumstance in between. There was no grandeur like we expected from Drummond, no run at a fourth National Championship, no 25 point and 15 rebound games, no wake of overmatched defenders walking back to the locker room, with their ego in tatters. Nope, Drummond blew through UConn and blew out like a quick Florida rainstorm. In the process, UConn fans were left with one sad reality: Waiting for Andre Drummond was better than actually getting him. The myth was greater than the reality.
That’s right, in Drummond’s eight months on campus, very little was accomplished, especially relative to the time it to get him to school. He came in unrefined offensively and never really developed, spending most of his time roaming around the court like a lost kid in the supermarket. Sure he had enough put-back dunks and big blocks to please the Sportscenter crowd, but he also didn’t have any defining moment, and really only one or two games that were even remotely memorable. Off the court, Drummond was gregarious and happy go-lucky, a guy that everybody- from coaches, to his teammates, to staff members- couldn’t help but love. On the court, he was a square peg in a round hole, and his presence (much more so than his actually game), was one of the biggest reasons UConn struggled this year.
And really, that was pretty much it. Doesn’t it tell you everything you need to know about Andre Drummond that I spent 800 words explaining his backstory, and 200 words describing what he actually did on campus? Like I said, perception hardly matched reality. Andre Drummond is a walking paradox.
But really what’s crazier than all that is that everyone actually seems to be ok with the Andre Drummond experience at UConn, in the same way when you break up with an especially cute girl, you realize “Sure it might not have worked out. But I just dated the hottest chick on the block!” Most of us understood coming in that Drummond was going to be a one-and-done guy, and even though he’s nowhere near ready for the pros, everyone understands why he’s leaving.
What’s even more surprising is that it seems like everyone- EVERYONE- feels that way. Looking over message boards (which I generally hate to do, but for the sake of this article did yesterday) and Twitter responses yesterday, I was stunned at how many people’s comments were all basically the same. They all essentially boiled down to: “We wish you could’ve stayed longer, but know you have to go. Good luck. Make us proud.” Five years of waiting, eight months of general disappointment, and yet somehow, Andre Drummond turned the entire UConn fan-base into a mushy group of soccer moms. I’m sure someone will even give him some homemade cookies to eat on the ride to the airport.
As I reflect back on the Andre Drummond experience at UConn, I can’t help but think he has one of the single weirdest legacies of any player in the history of the program. Seriously, has any one player ever come into the program- or heck, college basketball in general for that matter- with so much hype and delivered so little on the court production? More importantly, has any fan-base seemingly been so ok with it?
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that the entire Andre Drummond experience is really everything that this entire article boils down to: His time at UConn wasn’t about the eight months he spent on campus, but also the five years it took to get him there. It wasn’t about the 30 games he played at UConn, but the 300 he played in high school and AAU that every UConn fan monitored in the lead up to this year. He was a state kid, who wanted to do nothing but play for the state school, and would’ve stayed longer if he could’ve. We watched him grow up, and now it’s time for us to send him out into the real world.
Sure the myth of Andre Drummond never matched the reality of him.
But we’ll always have the memories, newspaper clippings and that one summer night.
I’m not the first person to say it, but also won’t be the last: Good luck Andre. You’ll always be a Husky.
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