CHICAGO—Continuing a recent trend among high school basketball stars, Farragut High School All-American point guard Jerrod Washburn announced he will skip college and go directly to embittered alcoholism, wallowing in the memory of his Farragut glory days and, ultimately, dying obscure and penniless in a South Side alleyway.
"This was not an easy decision for me," said Washburn, 18, at a press conference Monday, one month after concluding his high school career by scoring 32 points and leading Farragut to a 75-74 overtime win over Peoria Central for the Illinois state basketball championship. "The thought of going to a big-time university, sulking despairingly when I realized I was no longer the star but just another player, was certainly tempting. But in the end, I just felt I was ready for the next level—unemployment, alcoholism and, ultimately, a drug-related shooting death in an abandoned Chicago back lot."
"When we thought about it," said Yvonne Phillips, Washburn's grandmother and guardian, "we realized that no college program, no matter how good it may be, is likely to showcase Jerrod's on-court talents as well as Farragut already has—and no professional team is either. No, the only fitting showcase for Jerrod now is the distorted hall of mirrors that his mind will soon become."
Phillips, 66, said that her grandson is well-prepared to begin the task of reliving his stardom. "We have programs and videotapes of every game he's played since sixth grade, and we've saved every college recruitment letter he ever got. And because he's been raised to derive satisfaction only from basketball, he'll be able to enjoy ego boosts from the videotapes for a long, long time before the reality of the pathetic spectacle he has become fully hits him, and he needs to turn to drugs and alcohol to deaden the pain of that knowledge."
As of press time, Washburn still had not revealed which drugs he would use as an aid in his free-fall into obsolescence. While some analysts have speculated that the heretofore drug-free Washburn would find hard liquor more than sufficient to numb the ache of unfulfilled promise, others seemed confident he will turn to crack cocaine.
"Drinking will be a good start," said Basketball Digest editor Greg Layden. "But ultimately, I'm confident that Jerrod will develop into the kind of former player who can easily handle the more serious stuff—LSD, heroin, even smokable crack cocaine."
Washburn is already hard at work preparing for his future as a washed-up has-been. Five days a week he lingers near his school, hanging out with former classmates who haven't graduated yet. "I bore them with stories of my glory days," Washburn said. "Within a couple of months they should start getting sick of me and decide to avoid me altogether, adding fuel to my slide into oblivion."
Leading basketball analysts agreed with Washburn's decision to bypass college. "This kid's a can't-miss for failure, baby!" noted television commentator Dick Vitale said. "Maybe he'd start at a junior college, but you'd better believe that at a Division I school he'd be heading straight for the bench! And you know a kid like that's gonna hit nothing but the bottom of the alphabet come exam time—we're talking F's from here to Walla Walla! Pass the pipe, baby, because this kid's gonna be one serious PCPer!"
"After years of college boosters and scouts fawning over him and telling him how great he is, Washburn's got all the tools necessary for a huge fall," said New York Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica. "Overconfidence, blind faith in the system, lack of education—he's really the complete package."
Washburn joins the ranks of a growing number of high-school stars to skip college, including Lamond Broward of Asheville, NC, a 7'1" center who was a McDonald's All-America selection for four consecutive years. Broward, who graduated high school in 1995, is currently a permanent fixture on the furthest stool from the door at the bar of Mickey's Beef and Bar in Asheville, and is slated to commit an armed robbery while drunk early next month.