I was watching bits and pieces of the Maryland-Harlem Globetrotter exhibition basketball game on Tuesday, and it occurred to me that I could only recognize one player on the court. Steve Blake, the only white guy on the court at tip-off, stood out among the youthful Terrapins and the old, washed-up, former NBA journeymen because he was a senior and a solid starter on a good team.

Nowadays with so much player turnover after every season, college basketball constantly loses its recognizable faces. But this year’s season lacks even more big-name players than most. Perhaps the biggest sign of this dearth is in the fact that the most famous non-professional basketball player is high school senior Lebron James.

Another sign is this year’s preseason All-American First team. Usually this honor has been bestowed on players who even the most casual of fans might have heard of.

But this year, the names read, Luke Walton, Jason Gardner, David West, Kirk Hinrich and Erwin Dudley. What makes it even more odd is that they are all seniors.

I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable college basketball fan, but I was scratching my head after this year’s announcement. Of all the names, Jason Gardner stood out because he had been a consistent starter on three very solid Arizona teams. While Gardner’s teammate Walton is a solid player, he hadn’t done anything to make me forget that he was Bill Walton’s son. I only became familiar with Hinrich’s name last year when he was a member of a talent-loaded team overshadowed by Drew Gooden. As for West and Dudley, I still cannot put a face to their names.

Even college basketball’s powerhouses have only one or maybe two recognizable names to their teams. Duke, who annually sends three or four members to the first round of the NBA draft, returns Chris Duhon and marginally recognizable Dahntay Jones. aryland, who lost Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox this season, returns Blake and marginally recognizable Tahj Holden. Unlike last year, there are no teams that stand out with more than one familiar face. The closest thing you have is Kansas, which has Hinrich and Nick Collison.

You look around the nation trying to come up with familiar names, and you wonder how shallow the talent pool in college basketball is now. As shown by recent basketball drafts, the trend is youth, and professional teams are looking more for the potential superstar than the player ready to step up in his first season. International players overshadow American-grown talent because they start playing professionally before they can drive a car. As a consequence, NBA teams lose respect for the college game, influencing the state of mind of the average college basketball fan.

In Georgetown’s very own Big East Conference, the West division offers barely a whiff of recognizable names. Before last season, no one had even heard of Brandin Knight, and now he is arguably the most recognizable face in the conference. With the loss of Hoya enemies Preston Shumpert and Ryan Humphrey, Syracuse and Notre Dame offer Head Coach Jim Boeheim and sophomore point guard Chris Thomas respectively as their most familiar names. Don’t forget our very own Mike Sweetney.

As much as basketball purists will say that they watch the game for the game itself, individual stars make games much more viewable and interesting. If I had the choice of watching current preseason No. 3 Oklahoma face off against No. 4 Texas or a rerun of “The Simpsons,” chances are I’d choose “The Simpsons” based on the fact that I barely know anything about those two teams. While rankings, Dick Vitale, pre-game shows and Cameron Crazies add to the game, it is the individual players who make watching the regular season of college basketball worth it. They are what determine which rivalries are worth watching, and which rivalries can die down. For example, the loss of so many star players for both Duke and Maryland will make their rivalry less of a priority to watch than it was last year.

It is true that I have not even delved into the subject of the potential stardom of several of this year’s freshmen. Some people might actually think that there are plenty of recognizable names in college basketball. The purists will knock me for cheapening the value of competition and the game itself. And I haven’t even given the chance for some diamonds in the rough to emerge. But this season’s lack of star power will hurt the luster of college basketball.

While Georgetown fans will undoubtedly care for the Hoyas’ prospects this season, they will be hard-pressed to tune into basketball across the nation. As good as David West or Erwin Dudley might be, they don’t mean anything to me at this juncture of the college season.

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