Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What Happened to that Boy?

I will admit, I was once somewhat of a Sebastian Telfair fan.

It wasn't all my fault. As a kid, I had always fallen into the aura and hype around New York City point guards. Kenny Anderson at a time was my favorite college player of all time. Before Steve Francis, Kenny Smith was my favorite Houston Rocket of all time. Stephon Marbury used to be one of my favorite players of all time (before his downfall, we'll highlight that later). In 2000, my first voyage into high school higher knowledge was solely based around the NYC three-headed monster of Andre Barret, Omar Cook, and Taliek Brown.

I guess I should've learned with that group. Outside of Smith (and Marbury to a certain extent), none of those dudes came close to meeting their potential.

But back in 2000, who would have known that the most-hyped NY pg of them all would have his career almost over before he even turned 22.

That year, Sebastian Telfair was featured in Slam Magazine as the top eighth-grader in the country and began a road of unbelievably high expectations that he would struggle to meet, better yet exceed.

Telfair, the Coney Island, Brooklyn-born native, started his freshman year at Lincoln High School, where his cousin Marbury and his large group of brothers had attended. The summer after his freshman season, in 2001, he put on a magical show at the ABCD Camp in New Jersey, though to a lesser extent to the much-more hyped Lebron James, further cementing his spot as the top player in the class of 2004.

"Bassy" was on top of the world, and he was barely 16. Of course, you could make the argument that his basketball career peaked in the summer of '01.

Lincoln went on to win the coveted NYC PSAL title in 2002, but things went a tad bit south that summer, as Sebastian seemed to drop in class rankings after an up-and-down AAU circuit in which he sorta abandoned the thing that made him great at the HS level - penetrating at will and finding open teammates; uncanny floor vision - and tried to outscore opposing guards. His much-publicized duel with Florida's Darius Washington turned into a one-on-one playground game. With the arrival of big man Dwight Howard and Magic-like 6'7" pg Shaun Livingston, Telfair was no longer the darling of 2004.

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Sebastian finished his high school career with three straight PSAL championships, New York's all-time scoring records, and a historic cover alongside the King. (Along with the Sports Illustrated cover above). He, of course, was named a McDonald's All-American. But he was faced with the tough decision of whether to honor his committment to play for Coach Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville, who he signed a letter of intent with at the beginning of his senior year, or make the leap to the NBA, where he was rumored to be a first round pick.

By this time, Sebastian had grown from potential superstar media darling to an overhyped, undersized shooting point guard (who really couldn't shoot) who it seemed was being controlled by shoe company Adidas and hanger-ons who didn't have his best interests at heart. After he signed a contract with Adidas in May 2004, albeit killing the chance of college, he set himself on another road of high expectations. This time with no alternatives. He had to succeed and do it quickly. Or be a huge bust.

Which is what he turned out to be.

The Portland Trail Blazers took him with the 13th pick in the '04 Draft, amid conspiracy theories that Adidas was working with Portland (home of Adidas headquarters) to take Telfair in the lottery to boost his marketability. (The Blazers could've possibly taken him with their 22nd pick.)

Sebastian's tenure in Portland could be described at best as a short, dangerous rollercoaster. He barely got off the bench his rookie year until late in the season when the team was far out of contention. He put up some good numbers the last couple of months of the 2005 season, which may have been fool's good.

In February 2006, after losing his starting spot to rookie Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake, he was arrested after police in a Boston airport found a gun in his bag. (He claimed the gun belonged to his girlfriend. No charges were filed.) His career in Portland was all but over. Strike 1.

That summer, he was included in a deal that sent him to Boston and eventual Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy to Portland. (Strike ... we'll wait for it.) In October 2006, he was involved in an incident in Manhattan, New York that involved a robbery at gunpoint and rapper Fabolous getting shot. Again, no charges were filed against him. That season, he struggled finding his place in the Celtic system and eventually lost his starting spot to rookie Rajon Rondo. Then, to put the nail in the coffin of his tenure in Beantown, he was arrested in April 2007 for felony possession of a weapon. Strike 2. In July, he was sent to Minnesota with 13 other players in exchange for Kevin Garnett.

So what's next for Sebastian Telfair? This seems like all or nothing for Brooklyn's son. He has to really show his ass to have any chance of a future in the league. And it won't be easy. The T-wolves already have a long term answer at point guard in second-year lead guard Randy Foye and with Rashad McCants, Gerald Green, Marko Jaric, the Wolves are stacked in the backcourt. Could he start in Minny? Yes. Will he? Probably not. He could be moved again before training camp, which would tie him with cousin Marbury in career trades, and dude just turned 22.

One thing's for sure: Sebastian Telfair is on another road, but this one is not paved with high expectations, but a hopeful path to unfulfilled glory. But he first has to stop moving backwards.


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