About a month ago, I was sitting on my couch watching a New York crowd boo David Stern as many college and foreign basketball players were welcomed into The National Basketball Association. But as the first round came to a close, I noticed something especially odd: out of the first 20 draft picks, there was one senior drafted. One.
That made me wonder what role college plays in the life of eighteen-year-old athletes. Is the purpose to propel these superstars as quickly as possible into the NBA? Is it to give them incentives such as hummers and houses? (Oh wait, that’s college football.) It’s almost as if college is simply a stepping stone rather than an experience, and because of this disregard for the sport at this level, the quality of collegiate basketball is dwindling. Games are sloppier, and play is weaker. There are also no more intriguing rivalries that capture the entire nation like in the past!
Let’s go back to 1979. To cap off that year’s college basketball season, Michigan State and Indiana State were featured in the championship game. Michigan State had the beloved Magic Johnson while Indiana State showed off sharp-shooter Larry Bird (neither of whom were freshmen). It was a riveting game that ended with Michigan State winning 75-64, and to this day, it remains the most watched collegiate basketball game ever (and that was even before ESPN was around). Unfortunately, with the way college basketball is currently progressing, I don’t see this record being broken anytime soon.
The universities are most likely more frustrated about this than I am. They put so much time, effort, and money into their programs only to have them depleted of talent as players leave prematurely. School spirit, passion, and pride define the college experience, and retaining star athletes is vital to maintaining that fervor (look at what Jimmer Fredette – the lone senior – did for BYU). Regrettably, most colleges can’t compete with the NBA when it comes to what they have to offer.
On the other side, the student players would profit from a longer commitment to their schools. They would be able to continue to develop as athletes (obviously) but also as young men, and that point is something I think is overlooked. Most of these athletes are at that critical time in their lives when they are maturing and making that transition into true adulthood. No offense, but the NBA may not be the healthiest place for this type of growth to occur. How many times have you heard about dumb decisions being made out there by twenty-somethings playing professional sports? Now, staying in school does not at all guarantee good behavior, but with the guidance that schools can provide, these athletes could have more opportunities to mature before taking that next giant step.
Take Javaris Crittenton. This man was phenomenal in high school, almost averaging a triple-double and becoming a high school All-American. Then, he became a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket where he excelled as a leader on his team. Due to his success, he decided to enter the NBA Draft after just one year in school. He was selected 19th by the Los Angeles Lakers; however, being part of such a star-studded team, Crittenton had fewer minutes than Wang ZhiZhi did with the Mavericks. So, after playing in only 22 games that season, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies then later sent to the Washington Wizards. So, by the 2009-2010 season, Crittenton was wearing his third NBA jersey, but if he had stuck with college, he would’ve been a senior leading the Yellow Jackets. The day after turning only 22, Crittenton got into a confrontation involving guns with Gilbert Arenas… over a card game. Crittenton was given a misdemeanor gun possession charge and suspended for the rest of that NBA season. Today, he plays for the Wizards – the Dakota Wizards. I just wonder where Crittenton might be if he had finished college.
Obviously, yhe success of players like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and John Wall can be used as a counterargument. They came out of college early and have handled themselves well both on and off the court, but they obviously are not representative of all college basketball athletes. Leaving college early to enter the NBA used to be the exception. Today, it seems that most legitimate athletes stay in college only one or two years. Not only that, but now, simply “decent” athletes are coming out of college early, too (just look at Cory Joseph’s numbers). The lure of big money and celebrity status is too much for these young, vulnerable players to refuse, and this temptation is not going to disappear. So, I believe new regulations should be put into motion. We need a system where athletes stay in college for at least three years before entering into the draft. I really do believe these few extra years would be constructive for these athletes. It would be better for the colleges, for the sport, and for the young men themselves. Don’t be a fool, just stay in school.
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