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For Now, Rick, He's All Yours / Telfair chooses Pitino, Louisville

The T-shirts and the premature speculation already had

given him away, but Sebastian Telfair is nothing if not a showman. He ignored

the fact that the secret was out, that his teammates already had put on their

T-shirts, the black ones with the question "College or NBA?" posed on the

front, and the answer "Telfair Picks Louisville" written on the back.

At 4:38 p.m. yesterday, the most-hyped Coney Island point-guard prospect

since the last most- hyped Coney Island point-guard prospect, Telfair's cousin

Stephon Marbury, stepped to a makeshift podium in Lincoln's high school

gymnasium. He was flanked by his family, his coach and his principal and was

wearing a pinstripe suit, powder-blue shirt, and gray tie, an outfit straight

out of GQ.

This is what he said:

"I will be attending the University of Louisville-Rick Pitino."

Just like that. School, then coach, with hardly a breath in between, as if

that were its proper name, which, in Telfair's case, it might as well be.

"The biggest thing is the fans and coach Pitino and how everything is

organized for a basketball player," Telfair said. "It was a real easy decision."

So ended weeks, months, even years of speculation about the future of a

point guard who has been in the public spotlight since the fifth grade. Then

again, perhaps it settled nothing, because the speculation about Telfair's

future won't really end until next spring, when the deadline for high-school

seniors to enter the NBA draft finally passes. Although Telfair committed to

Louisville, his options clearly remain open. Listen to the language in this

statement:

"As of right now," he said, "I'm definitely going to be playing college

basketball."

Of course, "as of right now" could translate to a different decision come

spring, if Telfair has another stellar high-school season, and wins another

state championship, and impresses the right scouts. It will take a lot, since

no player 6-foot and under has jumped from high school to the NBA (Telfair is

listed at exactly 6-foot), and Telfair's father, Otis, said yesterday that his

son would have to be "a No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3" overall pick in order to make

the jump.

"I told him I'd rather see him go to college and get a taste of it," Otis

Telfair said. "But if it would be foolish not to go, then we go to the NBA."

The odds of Telfair being chosen that high are almost unimaginable. But

priorities could change. After all, nobody expected Telfair to choose a college

this soon. Even his own family didn't think it would happen until after

Christmas.

A relief?

"You don't understand," said Telfair's coach, Dwayne "Tiny" Morton.

The good news for Lincoln's basketball program is that the distractions

will be lessened. The Railsplitters are looking to win a third consecutive PSAL

championship, and this is one less preoccupation for media and for fans and

for Telfair himself, who ate up the attention yesterday afternoon. In fact,

only his father seemed happier.

"I know he'll go to Louisville and bring them a championship," Otis Telfair

said. "All they need is a point guard, and he's the missing piece."

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