This time of year, people who have never seen a college senior play a minute of basketball can tell you exactly what's wrong with his game.
That's because it's NBA draft time, and a conventional wisdom has developed about the top prospects. People pick it up third- and fourth-hand and repeat it, which makes it fourth- or fifth-hand to the next expert who comes along.But a young man with a degree in diplomacy from Georgetown University dissents from the conventional wisdom, at least as it applies to one of the top players in this year's draft.
The dissenter is Dikembe Mutombo, a native of Zaire who speaks seven languages. The player he thinks is getting a bum rap is Dikembe Mutombo, the 7-foot-2 inch center.
The book on Mutombo: Good shot-blocker, good rebounder, very athletic, can run the floor as well as any big man. Drawback: Very limited offensive game.
"I don't know why they say I don't have offensive game," Mutombo said. "How about when I average 15? Is that not enough? What do they really want me to score in college?
"Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell, tell me, even to those four guys, who score more than 20 points while he was in college? We can bring the statistics or we can call North Carolina or talk to coach Dean Smith, tell us if Michael Jordan score more than 20 points a game."
As a matter of fact, Jordan averaged 17.7 points at North Carolina. Ewing averaged 15.3 at Georgetown. Olajuwon averaged 13.3 at Houston. Russell, who had the worst offensive game of the four in the pros, was the best college scorer, averaging 20.7 at the University of San Francisco.
Mutombo averaged 9.9 in three years at Georgetown, but his improvement was dramatic. From just 3.9 points per game as a sophomore, he jumped to 10.7 as a junior and 15.2 last year.
"I think I'm better offensive player than many people think I am," he said.
The frightening thing about Mutombo is that he is still learning this game. He picked up a basketball for the first time five years ago, when he was 19.
"My father brought me to the basketball court," he explained. "He said I was too tall to play soccer."
In his brief basketball career, Mutombo has learned from the best.
"I have two summers I spend with Bill Russell," he said. "He came to Georgetown, talking to me. I really learned a lot from him. I talked to Patrick (Ewing) and all of the legend guys. They taught me you make a living on the defense."
And defense is why Mutombo is almost certain to be among the first five players selected in next Wednesday's draft. If the draft goes according to the conventional wisdom, he'll be available for Denver at No. 4, and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff makes no secret of the fact that he's followed Mutombo's career ever since it began.
But Mutombo doesn't pay much attention to the predictions. He already knows he's not a big fan of conventional wisdom.