Too Cool For School

20 07 2011

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.

Javaris Crittenton playing with the Washington...

Javaris Crittenton

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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3 responses

22 07 2011
Anonymous

I can’t agree more, Jay. Regardless of what prompts these one and done players to leave, they’re still leaving prematurely. It would only benefit the players, as well as their collegiate programs, to stay in the NCAA longer so that they can develop individually and grow WITH their team.

20 07 2011
Drew Allen

Two things to say on this subject: One, agree that the level of play in college basketball has greatly declined, but look at how 2 of the best teams from the past few years have gone about things….

Duke, with Coach K in all his greatness, never ceases to amaze me in their ability to recruit “almost” top level recruits( Nolan Smith, Singler, Reddick, etc.) that are willing to stick around for 4 years. Now, it may just be the prestige of Duke basketball that keeps these student athletes at school, but nonetheless something is obviously working for Coach K at Duke.

Also, I have two more words to say…Butler basketball. Boom. Roasted.

20 07 2011
Trevor Rathbun

First of all, I love the site Jay. Great way to jump start your career and get ahead of your peers by practicing what you love even though we havent even started school yet.

Now onto the topic at hand. I agree with most of what you said regarding the frustration of prestigious and up-and-coming universities and their tireless recruitment of super star athletes from high school. However, shouldn’t the schools take into consideration the players outstanding ability, social-economic background, and overall plans to stay or leave after one year? I personally feel sorry for the schools that recruit just from the upper crust of players and then have to do it all again the next year because the last class declared for the draft. In all seriousness, can the schools be so ignorant as to not even have a speculation that the player that is a 5 star prospect from Compton will turn down millions of dollars and the chance to take his family out of poverty? I know if I was in his shoes I would leave for the riches. After all, the world today is all about how much money and popularity you have. So instead of schools constantly going after all the top players why don’t they instead pursue one or two and then find and recruit lower class players then build and mold them into solid all around players? I understand in today’s society results are expected immediately. But giving up a year or two so you can build a group of solid players with two superstars seems worth it to me.

Just look at the Miami Heat. They went out and scouted 3 super stars. Everyone expected them to win now. Immediately the expectations were through the roof. But they failed to an older, veteran team. Why? Because the veteran team had solid players in every position. You seriously can’t expect a team to win a championship with back up centers Eric Dampier and Big Z. Look how far they got with their previous teams (Dallas, 3 years of one and dones, and Cleveland, 1 finals appearance and 2 Eastern Conference Championship appearances).

The point being, maybe the schools should slow down their desire to win immediately and recruit mid-level players who have a desire to stay and better themselves with only one or two superstars.

As for the players decisions to leave, well, I think the NCAA and the NBA should AT LEAST make sure the players declaring for the draft have a minor in their field of study. And then when they get to the NBA the players should be required to take financial planning, business ethics, and career adjustment seminars or classes to better prepare them for the lifestyle they inherit by being drafted. Also, players should be required to finish their major within 10 years after being drafted. This will lead to players having a fall-back career as well as being able to handle the ravishing lifestyle of being a pro athlete.

-Trevor Rathbun

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