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Originally published March 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 3, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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Jerry Brewer

The notion that Hawes owes us, or UW, is a utopian air ball

To all height-blessed and chicken-legged young basketball players, an addendum to familiar advice: To whom much is given, much is required...

Seattle Times staff columnist

To all height-blessed and chicken-legged young basketball players, an addendum to familiar advice:

To whom much is given, much is required.

Just don't give in to all requirements.

Let's talk about selfishness. It runs two ways in sports. We always refer to athletes' greedy ways, but we like to take, take, take, too. And in the quest to get our way, we can be downright indignant sometimes.

Like with these potential one-and-done college freshmen. In the next five weeks, they all have big decisions to make. Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, even our own Spencer Hawes.

Those who love college hoops don't want the NBA's new 19-year-old age limit to hold programs hostage. The megastars have returned to campus, at least for a year, and we're still adjusting to it.

We have this erroneously self-righteous belief about these kids, though. We believe they owe us, the protectors of implied college purity, something. And they shouldn't leave before paying up.

For Durant and Oden, this is no problem. They've met this obscure minimum requirement that satisfies us. We will be disappointed but understanding when they declare for the NBA draft. And it's a when, not an if, no matter what you've heard.

Hawes? The consensus is he should do more, because the Huskies failed to make the NCAA (or even NIT) tournament and both injuries and illness stifled the homegrown 7-footer.

It's preposterous groupthink. It's perfect for utopian college athletics, but we should know better.

When asked last week about this Hawes-hasn't-done-enough sentiment, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was incredulous.

"I don't know if that's a factor at all," Romar said. "I guess my answer is, 'So what does that mean?' Spencer Hawes is a great player, a great student, a great representative for this university."

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But, but, UW only went 19-13 with him this season.

"Spencer wasn't by himself this year," Romar said. "He had coaches and teammates. We all didn't make the tournament.

"It's unfair. Spencer was out four weeks with a knee injury before the season began, then he had to catch up, which he did. Then he got sick, lost 20 pounds, turned an ankle, still tried to play. Whoever says that about him, I'd like to follow you on your job and see how you would do under those circumstances."

I don't want Romar peeking at my laptop's screen, so I'm abandoning any smugly moralistic thoughts.

At first, I was with all the fans and readers who'd write and say Hawes needed to accomplish more at UW before considering his NBA options. It's a nice thought on the surface.

Then those cries turned into unabashed venom and ridicule. It puzzled me why a city that so cherishes its own was dogging a neighbor.

The reality is, those Hawes haters weren't so much killing him as they were the idea of him. One good-but-not-great year, no postseason, and that's it?

What about their hopes of Final Four? What about their national championship dreams? Why can't Spencer give a little more? Take, take, take.

It shouldn't be Hawes' burden, however. You get to be selfish, and he can't?

A college scholarship is nothing to crumple up, but Hawes doesn't owe UW anything. He should return for his sophomore season to strengthen his body, refine his skills and enter the pros as a force instead of a project.

If he decides not to, he shouldn't be condemned, and his lone college season shouldn't be considered a lost one.

Texas coach Rick Barnes made good sense when asked what Durant — and all NBA-intrigued freshmen, for that matter — should be thinking between now and the April 29 deadline to declare.

"What I know about Kevin is that this game means a lot to him," Barnes said. "He knows he's been blessed with a lot of ability, and he wants to really, really affect this game in a positive way. Whatever he decides, I know he'll make a responsible decision for himself."

Affect the game in a positive way. Make a responsible decision for yourself.

These are the only things these kids must do. Our superfluous selfishness doesn't matter.

I'd love for Hawes to stay another year. He could certainly avoid a confidence hit if he stays another year. Young players don't realize how monotonous and joyless the NBA schedule can be. Hawes has had fun in college, and he could have an even better time winning 25-plus games next season.

But all the best draft forecasters have him going anywhere from sixth to 11th. Many NBA talent evaluators whisper that he'd at least enter the process as a high-pick consideration. He's too tall, too skilled and too young to ignore, even though he didn't play Durant-deranged this season. He'd be foolish not to ponder entering the draft.

Hawes is undoubtedly better for coming to college and competing through this season's distress. Washington is better for having him, too. Five years from now, the impact he had helping the Huskies become a recruiting force will be seen as more beneficial than his 14.9-point average this season.

He's paid his tab. Don't pester him if he walks out of this college hoops establishment.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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