With Monday's NCAA Men's national championship set between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Kansas Jayhawks, some of college basketball's biggest stars will have one last chance to showcase their talents to NBA scouts before June’s NBA draft. Like many years in recent memory, the four teams that have made this weekend's Final Four — Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, and Kansas — are lead by freshmen that have made an immediate impact on their rosters. In 2005, the NBA implemented a rule requiring that an athlete must be one year removed from high school in order to be eligible to enter the draft. Since the introduction of this regulation, there has been a rapid increase of “one-and-done” players who stay in college for a single season before declaring for the draft. While NBA commissioner David Stern attempts to improve the condition of basketball players by mandating a one-year layover between high school and the pros, this regulation has proven to be largely ineffective in bettering the lives of basketball players. An alternative would be adopting the MLB’s age policy, which would give athletes the option between entering the draft out of high school or committing to at least three years of college.
Recently, stars such as Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley have found success on the professional level after having one-year NCAA careers. Kentucky head coach John Calipari is notorious for recruiting “one-and-done” freshmen, producing lottery picks such as Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, and Demarcus Cousins since the establishment of the age rule in the NBA. This year is no different as freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both projected as top-three picks, are expected to enter the draft after their first year.
David Stern’s implementation of an age limit has caused endless debate throughout the world of basketball. Many supporters argue that Stern is right to force kids to attend college. However, it morally incorrect to make a teenage kid forego an opportunity to earn money to risk suffering a career-ending injury playing in a meaningless college game. Needless to say, there is a clear social dilemma on hand, one in which basketball announcers and social analysts alike have discussed at great length.
While it is important to weigh both sides of the argument as each presents unique advantages, requiring high school athletes to play one year in college does not make sense. From an academic standpoint, it is unrealistic to think that star college basketball players, who already have their sights sets on the NBA, will accomplish anything substantial in one year of college. In many cases, these “student-athletes” maintain the minimum GPA to be eligible to play during the basketball season before completely disregarding their schoolwork as they practice for NBA scouts. It would be naïve to believe that any type of true education is achieved.
Basketball-wise, college experience doesn’t necessarily translate into NBA success. Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard made the jump from high school to the NBA and their careers seem to be going pretty well. While there have been players who have carved superstar NBA careers after playing college basketball since the age rule was introduces, there is no proof of correlation between college and NBA success. Just ask former Kentucky player Daniel Orton who left college after just one season in which he was a back-up player and now cannot crack the Orlando Magic rotation that is desperate for a backup center.
The most sensible solution for the NBA is to adopt the MLB eligibility rule. MLB commissioner Bud Selig allows players to enter the MLB draft straight out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they must remain in school through their junior year. This scenario requires that college athletes make a commitment to academics, but also give students the option to pursue a professional career right off the bat.
As the NCAA’s wind down and the draft gets closer, this dilemma will again take center stage. Let’s end this hypocrisy and let great athletes jump to the pros, and stop pretending that forcing them to spend a year in college creates long-term academic benefits.