One and Done
Issue   |   Tue, 03/11/2014 - 21:34

DEAR GOMES:
With the NCAA Div. I basketball tournament right around the corner, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how the "one and done" rule has affected the game I love so dearly! Is going to college for that one year really worth it for the top NBA prospects? How can I expect to see the next Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett if talented players are no longer allowed to go straight to the league? As much as I love March Madness, it's frustrating to watch stars, who are ready to play at an NBA level, outshine their collegiate opponents. What do you think?
--NONE AND DONE?

NONE AND DONE:
Every year college basketball witnesses an influx of great freshmen talent. In today’s game, freshmen such as Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are dominating the game and are considered NBA ready. They will all conceivably finish their college career once the NCAA tournament is completed, which has given way to the term “one and done”. The term “one and done” comes from the culture where players go to school in the fall semester, play their season and prepare for the NBA Draft in the spring. The term is now synonymous with NCAA basketball. Many players are not actively involved in school and don’t have an experience that reflects what it means to be a student athlete.

First, we must look at why the system that is in place. Under the NBA's current collective bargaining agreement, players must be one year out of high school and 19 years old to play in the league. This essentially forces players that consider themselves ready to play professionally after high school to go to college for a year. The controversial rule is in place because many NBA franchises in the past chose players straight out of high school with hope of them one day being the face of their franchise. Many of the picks worked out like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kevin Garnett, but for every player that has succeeded, there are the Kwame Brown, James Lang and Robert Swifts of the NBA. These players were highly touted coming out of high school, but after bouncing around to several teams, they soared into obscurity and have been labeled as busts. The NBA has the age limit in place to guard against bad investments in players from taking place.

Teams now see their prospects against other college players, which provides more information for scouting reports. The NBA believes the additional year of college will help players mature as well. Colleges also benefit as they make millions in revenue on the back of these players. Everyone seems to benefit from the rules, except for the players. Many players parallel their situation to a workplace. If you are qualified for a specific job, then you should be able to do that job regardless of age. However, many players find themselves stuck in an environment they do not want to be in in order to earn a chance to play in the NBA.

Interestingly enough, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made comments about the "one and done" system and offered an alternative to potential NBA players, “because the NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go to college for one year … So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League. And hopefully at some point we’ll have some kind of a secondary draft like baseball, where you can draft a kid starting in the third round and let him play in the D-League.”

Cuban is a staunch opponent of the NCAA system and believes D-League should become a more viable option. The college system in place does a poor job in preparing players for the NBA from a mental and psychological standpoint. In the NCAA, there are rules that restrict the contact players can have with their coaches and their ability to enjoy the other facets of college. College can have a huge impact on a player’s career if done the right way, but the age limit restricts players’ autonomy and makes a mockery out of college basketball. The Developmental League offers prospects an avenue where players can concentrate on basketball and furthering their career. We say the players are student athletes, but players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker do not need to go to college to further their career.

I am not one to say that college, in its most basic form, is not beneficial. It is a once in a lifetime experience. The opportunity to mature athletically and intellectually has tremendous value. The camaraderie with fans and being on a lively campus is very enjoyable. Take Jabari Parker for example. He attends Duke University. He has the privilege to attend Duke classes, play for Coach K and is cheered on by the Cameron Crazies. He takes advantage of the opportunities offered to him and is very much considering returning to school even though he is a projected top five pick. However, Parker is an anomaly in college basketball.

"I want this to be like baseball," SMU coach Larry Brown said. "If a kid is good enough, like LeBron James or like Kevin Durant, to come right out of high school, let him go. Put it in his contract, though, that you're going to make X amount of dollars if you go back to school. Then if you decide to go to school, stay three years. Then all these NBA people wouldn't have to keep these workout coaches, because the kids would be prepared."

Brown, an iconic coach, makes a great point, one that I completely agree with. The baseball format of drafting players is the best for all parties involved. Great players like Lebron do not need to go to college and would immediately help a franchise win games. For other players who are on the fringe of making an NBA roster, going to college for a certain amount of time would help them develop.

In the end, we must ask ourselves what is best for the game itself. Ultimately, I want to see the highest level of play in both college basketball and NBA. I would like to see Jabari Parker and the other talented freshmen challenged in the NBA instead of dominating an inferior game. At the same time, players on NBA rosters that are not developed enough should stay in college and continue to work on their games. It is a tough balancing act, but the format baseball utilizes in bringing in new talent to the MLB will promote the best product on the court for both the NCAA and the NBA.

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