Kevin Garnett is, in no particular order: the best-ever Minnesota Timberwolves player; crazy; a sure-fire Hall of Famer; a hellacious trash-talker; one of the most dominant power forwards in NBA history; and, as of Friday, no longer an active professional basketball player.
Garnett is also notable, at least around these parts, for an alternate-reality distinction. Had Garnett gone to college in 1995 — had he indeed been eligible to play in college, a matter of some dispute over the years — the USA Today National High School Player of the Year said years ago that he would have picked Maryland.
"Everybody had me going to Michigan for a long time," he reportedly told Student Sports Magazine in 1995. "I led people on that I was going to UM. If I would have gone to college, it was going to be Maryland. I was going to shock 'em all."
Garnett would've been the centerpiece of a recruiting class otherwise composed of forward Laron Profit, guard Terrell Stokes and center Obinna Ekezie. He also would've been a natural replacement for Naismith College Player of the Year Joe Smith, who turned pro after the 1994-95 season, his sophomore year.
Without Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft, and Smith, the No. 5 selection, the Terps went 17-13 overall and were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by No. 10 seed Santa Clara, led by 28 points from a Canadian point guard named Steve Nash.
If College Park truly would have been Garnett's destination, Maryland fans should feel proud, but then mostly sad. In 1974, ballyhooed big-man recruit Moses Malone arrived on campus for the start of the school year. After the American Basketball Association's Utah Stars took him in the third round of that year's draft, he received a five-year offer worth $1 million. It was enough. He became the first high school player to go straight to a professional league, and, later in his career, the three-time Most Valuable Player of the NBA.
Twenty-one years later, in 1995, Garnett became the NBA's first preps-to-pros player in 20 years, the head of a train of high school draftees that included Kobe Bryant (1996), Tracy McGrady (1997) and Kwame Brown (2001), among many others.
Things have a way of balancing themselves out, or at least starting to get there. Who would've thought two years ago that the Terps would be getting three seasons of Melo Trimble?