Enes Kanter isn’t afraid to be bold with his assertions. He told Utah to “get ready for the Undertaker.” He said his sport of choice outside of basketball is ping-pong. He also said UK would have won the championship if he was eligible to play.
That hypothetical may or may not be true. We have no way of knowing. But regardless of the outcome to that theoretical season, a small “What if” segment will always be contained with the 2010-11 season. What if he had been eligible? Would UK have taken largely the same path to the end, except having Kanter would provide the needed boost to win it all? Or would his presence from the start have taken UK on a completely different trajectory, with the inability to know (or even guess) the end point?
Would a Kanter-led UK have actually reached the potential we place on that hypothetical squad?
The next stage of his career — his time in the NBA — will affect how we answer that question. Right now, we can assume Kanter does what he declared he would have done: “dominate” the college game, and subsequently, take UK to the next level. There’s no reason to project Kanter achieving anything less than his fullest potential while at UK, because he didn’t play any games to suggest otherwise.
Now he will, as he starts his NBA career off with Utah. Now we see what type of player he really is and what he really can be. And when this new vision of Enes Kanter emerges, it will be retroactively projected onto the “what-if” scenarios at UK.
Personally, I think Kanter will succeed, and at a high level, as many people (including Utah) do. He seems to possess everything a center should. But that has to be hedged, because we simply haven’t seen him enough. I’ve seen some spliced-together YouTube footage, an ESPN clip of his workouts, the Hoops Summit game, and one UK practice (in which he dominated, but that was against a mid-December Josh Harrellson and not a mid-March Harrellson). I’m not going to act like I can accurately estimate what he will become, because I can’t, and judging by all the pre-draft columns I don’t think anyone really can. But if he succeeds, then his declaration will remain intact: UK would have won the championship. If he does develop into a force at the pro level, we can draw a line backwards into his one year at college and reasonably say the addition of Kanter would have been enough.
But if he doesn’t quite pan out like a No. 3 pick should, or if he busts entirely? Those talks of how Kanter would have guaranteed UK an eighth banner are invalid. And if this happened, it might even produce a sour taste. Why would we want to see someone who we thought was SO GOOD turn out to be mediocre? Why would we want this hazy dream of how the season would have turned out with him to be dispelled? Kanter underachieving would wipe out any form of lingering nostalgia that will remain with the memories of last year. And it’s worth noting that the first half of last year, when it became apparent UK was not going to be able to play Kanter, took on a sort of lost-cause aspect until UK began proving otherwise.
So what’s at stake here? Even though the future is supposed to be what is always at stake when anything is at stake, it’s not. It’s the past. The possibilities of the 2010-11 season.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @KernelASmith or discuss with him at firstname.lastname@example.org