Before college basketball one and done players dominated the game, the story with really good high school athletes was you went to college for four years, and if you were lucky enough to be able to continue a career in your passion, the pro teams would give you a chance to parade your wares for them. If you were extra special, you could make a living out of it; if not, you need to, as they say, ‘get a day job’.
Over the last dozen years or so, the phenomenon in collegiate basketball has been the advent of the one and done player. The NBA mandates that athletes go to college for one year for no other reason than to have a kid with that gifted talent spend one year at some of the best pillars of education in the country, only for them never to have even found their dorm, much less have any of the collegiate experience.
Oh sure, everyone can blame John Calipari, the perennial one and done master at the University of Kentucky, that churns out first and second round NBA players, as fast as you can say national championship. He continues to say that it’s not his fault – it’s the rules that the NBA established, saying that you can’t get drafted out of high school, but go to college for one year, try to learn how to weave a basket or read an astronomy map, and you can join our club – for big bucks.
Let’s examine this a little further. Coach Cal is not the only one now that is taking advantage of the revolving door of NCAA D1 basketball. If someone told you a few years ago that Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of the hallowed and largely gray-matter Duke University would subscribe to this policy, you would have believed that Bobby Knight could actually smile during a game.
It’s all about national championships, television revenue, and branding, which has now become a very large component of a college or university’s bottom line. (Who does it better than the NFL)? The NCAA is getting into a social media world, and the instant coronation of a potential number 1 pick is discussed, ad nauseum, even prior to the would be one and done player committing to a college program.
There has been talk of the NBA changing its thought process on the one and you’re in process. Discussions have centered on ensuring that these would be stars of future NBA teams, complete at least two years of a program which, by the way, constitutes academics as well. We are all aware that a significant majority of these athletes come from relatively meager backgrounds, and they have a small window to make as much money as possible for not only themselves, but also for their families, both present and in the future.
Who can begrudge these star players from wanting to live their dream? Certainly, if an individual wants and believes they can make a fortune out of professional sports, all the power to them. But is it fair to college programs, like Kentucky, from losing an entire starting lineup and most of their bench, and to have a whole new group of kids to teach and then lose the following year?
Not sure what the right answer to that is, but in this digital age, when everyone wants their fill yesterday, it doesn’t seem to bother that new millennium of fans who love to cheer or jeer, and make NCAA March Madness almost a national holiday – just behind the Super Bowl of course. Office pools, daily fantasy games, the constant jawing on all day sports stations, and even yours truly loves to talk about something that may be upped a year, but in the end does it really matter?
Look, let’s face facts – not everyone coming out of college in the first two rounds of the NBA draft are all going to be Stephen Curry or Anthony Davis. Heck, it usually takes a few years to groom one of these young bucks into NBA shape, and by that time, they are either traded or have turned into the next great thing.
Has anyone noticed that a lot of teams that succeed in the NCAA tourney, and go to the later rounds, are those that have players that stay for at least three, if not four years? Ask Wisconsin, Michigan State, Wichita State, and some of the other mid-size teams that seem to be a constant each March. Maybe the old days of the UCLA’s of the world, and the great runs of teams for a while four years program, ala Phi Slamma Jamma or the Fab Five is a thing of the past. No one seems to bring that up much anymore.
At any rate, it will be a constant source of contention each year, mostly by those who hate the teams that do it, and they don’t root for, unless of course it’s your own team. Not everyone can be a Wildcat or Blue Devils fan, right? Until something changes, and it probably won’t, we can all hope that once they super studs get to the NBA, they can learn how to dribble without traveling, and it is indeed permissible to play defense.