James Wooden and Caleb Williams have D.C. dreaming of a hometown star – eastpowernews

When James Wooden of Rockville was requested two years in the past, at 19, what it felt wish to be traded to his hometown Washington Nationals, he known as it a blessing.

However I’m haunted nonetheless by Derrick Rose being drafted No. 1 by his hometown Chicago Bulls. After being rookie of the 12 months in 2009 and main the Bulls to a 62-win season in his third season — when, at 22, he turned the youngest participant in NBA historical past to win the MVP award — he later crumpled to the courtroom with a knee damage and missed what ought to have been his fifth NBA marketing campaign. He by no means recovered totally in Chicago and wound up shipped out of city in 2016. He by no means recaptured his all-star skill, both.

Nearer to residence, there’s the recency bias in opposition to constructing round homegrown stars reminiscent of Chase Younger, from Prince George’s County and DeMatha Excessive, drafted second by the Commanders in 2020 out of Ohio State, the place his expertise was so plain he was the uncommon defensive participant named a Heisman Trophy finalist. He was named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the 12 months, too. However then he was sidelined and slowed by damage, via no fault of his personal, and final season he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers. And, after all, there’s the tragedy of Dwayne Haskins, one other Washington first-round choose.

Fact is that coming residence for sports activities stars has usually been extra of a curse than a blessing, although not at all times. LeBron James had two stints in Cleveland, about 30 miles from his hometown of Akron, after the Cavaliers drafted him out of highschool No. 1 general in 2003. In his first run there, he led the staff to the NBA Finals. In his second run, he gained Cleveland an NBA championship. And the Baltimore Orioles discovered fortune with Cal Ripken Jr.

However right here we’re across the nation’s capital, staring on the potential of hometown child Wooden, now a 6-foot-6, 240-pound slugger who’s clobbering the baseball in spring coaching just like the famous person, franchise-changing expertise scouts have projected. I imply, if he retains hitting like this, perhaps the Nationals ought to contemplate bringing again the generational expertise, Juan Soto, they traded for Wooden simply to guard him within the lineup!

And the Commanders’ fingers are crossed that by some means, someway, the hapless Chicago Bears don’t nab Southern California’s Caleb Williams, thought of the very best quarterback prospect in a number of years, with the highest choose in subsequent month’s NFL draft and as an alternative permit Williams — from Bowie and Gonzaga Faculty Excessive within the shadow of the Capitol — to be introduced right here with the second choose.

“It’s acquainted,” Williams stated final week on the NFL mix of taking part in professionally the place he’s from. “It’s hometown, as all people is aware of. It’d be actually cool to be again there and expertise that.”

For us, it might just about be a primary.

We’ve by no means actually had the hometown star work out for certainly one of our professional groups. Regardless of all the nice basketball expertise produced in and round Washington, nearly not one of the Corridor of Famers performed right here. Not Elgin Baylor. Not Adrian Dantley. And never Kevin Durant, a future Corridor of Fame inductee, who spurned preparations from the Wizards to return them to prominence.

“I actually simply didn’t wish to play at residence,” Durant instructed The Washington Submit in 2017. “I used to be like, I’m attempting to construct a second a part of my life as a person dwelling in a special a part of the nation, simply attempting to do various things. I did every thing I used to be presupposed to do within the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia space, I felt. Now it’s time to do one thing new. I didn’t wish to come again. That’s simply my thought course of behind it. It had nothing to do with basketball, the followers, town.”

Commanders two-time Professional Bowl defensive deal with Jonathan Allen did play at Stone Bridge Excessive in Ashburn. However he was born in Alabama, and Loudoun County was his final cease as a child after many.

The Washington Mystics in 2022 used the third choose within the WNBA draft to pick heart Shakira Austin from Maryland and Riverdale Baptist Excessive. And in her second season, she suffered a torn labrum in her hip that required surgical restore and can sideline her for 4 to 6 months, lengthy sufficient to depart her availability at the beginning of this coming season doubtful.

However I’m speaking about superstars right here. The gamers who can change a story like James and Durant — like Wooden and Williams are stated to have the potential to do.

Enjoying at house is loads of strain, after all. A distinct form of strain than what nearly each participant faces wherever besides residence.

Possibly the best to ever do it, James, stated to achieve success hometown sports activities stars, athletes should give attention to the explanation they’re there over merely being there. Not less than that’s what his short-time teammate Patrick Beverley stated. “I talked to LeBron, who’s my huge brother,” Beverley stated after becoming a member of his hometown Bulls. “I requested him loads of questions — ‘How was it taking part in at residence?’ The largest factor he instructed me was to prioritize the job, which is taking part in basketball, and have every thing else come after that.”

Gamers who come residence discuss in regards to the stress of satisfying household and buddies with tickets to see them play and infrequently having the downtime or non-public time they get taking part in and dwelling elsewhere. Level guard Chris Paul, one other future Corridor of Fame inductee, lately instructed a number of native highschool courses that learn his ebook, “Sixty-One: Life Classes from Papa, On and Off the Court docket,” via the Povich Middle E-book Membership at Maryland that he has a brand new solitude in a rental within the San Francisco space, the place he’s taking part in this season for the Golden State Warriors. His household remains to be within the Los Angeles space, the place they relocated throughout his Clippers years. However he has by no means performed for the Charlotte Hornets, close to his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C.

Given the dangerous luck or no luck that has befallen so many superstars who’ve performed the place they’re from, I assume he has been higher off.

Attempting to be the hometown star isn’t one thing I want for star athletes. However selfishly, right here in D.C., I want it for us. Not less than this as soon as.


A earlier model of this text incorrectly stated that Dave Bing by no means performed for the Washington NBA franchise. He spent two seasons with the Washington Bullets. The article has been corrected.

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