March is the most important month on the college basketball calendar. Sure the prior four months are needed in order for a program to makes its mark in March, but this is when legends (and careers) are ultimately made. Casual fans pay more attention to the sport, and more NBA executives take in the action with an eye towards the June draft.
So a big March for a player can boost his NBA prospects, in some cases turing a fringe first round pick into a lotter selection. Such was the case for former Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn, whose performance during the 2009 Big East tournament quarterfinal against UConn (the six overtime drama) and subsequent winning of the event’s MVP award put him in position to be the sixth pick of the 2009 NBA Draft.
(Just four players in the history of the Big East tournament won MVP honors without their team winning the title: Pearl Washington (1986), Alonzo Mourning (1992), Victor Page (1996) and Flynn.)
But was it a case of “too much, too soon” for Flynn? Jonathan Abrams of Grantland put together a very good story focusing on Flynn’s struggles to land a stable role in the NBA after multiple issues led to Flynn being out of the NBA within three years. Would things have turned out differently for Flynn if not for his play in New York during that March weekend in 2009?
“I’m not sure that he goes into the draft if that game doesn’t happen and I know for sure he doesn’t go as high as sixth if that game doesn’t take place,” said Mike Waters, the longtime Syracuse basketball beat reporter for the Post-Standard. “The fact that it was at Madison Square Garden in a tournament format, against somebody like Connecticut on national TV with NBA scouts attending the tournament, a game like that happens and all of a sudden you’re the focus of the nation.”
Also take note of former Timberwolves GM David Kahn’s insistence at the time that Flynn and Ricky Rubio could be the modern-day Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. You can’t make stuff like that up.