Since the NBA added the rule that no player can enter the draft until they have been one year removed from high school, we have see a massive influx of one year wonders in the NCAA. The 2008 NBA Draft is evidence of this as 11 freshmen were drafted overall, and 10 of them were in the first round! (Both draft records) The impact that this draft will have on the NBA is yet to be seen, but let"s look at the impact that this has on the players and their schools.
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The NBA and NCAA got together to come up with this rule, and as you can imagine the NCAA had no issues with it. Let"s face it, these athletes make the school millions of dollars. And, as was the case in the 2007 NCAA season, these freshmen played a huge roll in the success of their team! Let"s take a look at the top three picks in the draft; Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo. All three got their teams to the NCAA tourney in "08. Beasley and his Kansas State team faced off with O.J. Mayo and the USC Trojans in the first round... Kansas State would win that game, but lose the next round to #3 seed Wisconsin. Rose on the other hand would take his Memphis team to the finals only to lose to a very good Kansas team! All three men were the main players for their team, the primary draw for the fans, and it is doubtful that any of their teams would have made it as far as they did. Yet, it was no secret, nor a surprise that they were all only going to be in school for one season.With this rule now in place, NCAA schools recruit players with the understanding that one good season is all they get! These players are in school only because they have to be... they are not students at all! All that is required is for them to have two "D"s" in the fall semester and they are ineligible to play! So, they schools are basically pimping these players with the help of the NBA! OK, that may be harsh... but, when you use a person to make a profit and give them none of it, I don"t see much of a difference! Some will argue that they are getting a free education, but since they are not there for an education, that argument is out the window. Even if they were learning something in this one year of college, you are talking about, let"s call it a $15,000 scholarship, the school is making millions per season! Memphis, with Derrick Rose, probably made more money than they ever have in 2007-2008. Not to mention the endorsements that will continue for some time. How much of that went to Rose? The obvious answer is zero!But, obviously, he did benefit from spending one season in college. He may not be more book smart that when he left high school... but his game has improved! Playing at the college level did have a positive impact for him. After all, he was the number one pick in the 2008 draft. Would he have been the number one pick in the 2008 draft? More than likely not! Chances are he is not going to be picked ahead of Greg Oden, Kevin Durant or Al Hartford... he may have been a late first rounder. (As well as all of the freshmen that was drafted in 2008.)Looking at it like that, they were all helped out tremendously! Their contracts will be much larger now. The endorsements may flow in a little faster. And, let"s not forget that they all improved their game as well!But, is there another way? Of course there is! These players have the three choices coming out of high school for the most part.
Option one, the most popular as you can imagine, go to college! Pick the right school and the right coach and they could be the beneficiaries of some great media coverage, as well as easy access for NBA scouts to attend games. They can improve their game and move on to the next level as soon as the season is over! Other benefits include; free education should they choose to utilize that year to learn, also they have the ability to stay if they do not have a great season, or they feel their stock is no high enough. But, there is no pay!Option two. They can go to Europe and play in an international league. They would get paid, an depending on the player, get paid well! This would allow them not only cash that first check and buy everyone they know a new home. Being that it is a professional league the endorsements could start then as well. Again, the right coach is a must. And if they found the right coach with a good system, it could take their game to the next level. Playing against men and not college guys would get them physically ready for the NBA much faster than playing college ball. But, there is a down side! If you do poorly, your chances of coming to play in the NBA are hindered. Obviously they can play overseas for as long as they want, but for the sake of this one year detour to the NBA rule, if could be counter-productive! They would also lose the spot light that comes with playing in the U.S. and the major NCAA tournaments. Plus, scouting rules are different for the NBA when in comes to the international players. So, their game would improve and they would be paid, but they may fall off the radar.Option three. They can sit out the entire year! This would be the last resort for most players as they would lose the spot light, the education and the potential money. They would not actually sit out through! They would be allowed to hire an agent and have then pay for all sorts of training to build their skills up for the following year"s draft. This would not be illegal as they are not part of the NCAA and are not playing amateur basketball for a league. The obvious risk here is not getting any exposure. The only real film that teams can judge you on is from high school, but with this NBA rule, teams cannot recruit players from high school, so they are not seeing these tapes now anymore! This option would be only for the highest rated players in high school to consider as they would be the only ones that would have a name for themselves that may hold up for the whole year they sit out!Each option has is pro"s and con"s. Players weigh them heavily before deciding which way they will go. Although some have their hands forced! If they do not have the grades to attend the colleges that they want to get into, or they don"t test high enough, they are forced to consider the other options.Making the jump to the NBA straight out of high school is obviously a tough task! It is deceiving when we watch playing in the league that have done it, and have done it well! Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Lebron James make it look like it is easy! Kobe has three NBA titles, a league MVP and has won the scoring title. Garnett just won his first title to go with a Defensive MVP and many other awards. And Lebron has made it to the playoffs pretty much every season and has been to the finals once, and it does not appear that will be his last trip! There is no doubt that these players made the right decision for themselves! But, they did not have this rule to contend with either! A players today have to make one of these three choices... but is it fair?The NBA can institute any new rules that it wants to. It is their league after all! But, was this rule put in for the NBA or for the NCAA? It would appear that this was more for the colleges than the pros! The schools stand to make more off of these players for that year obviously. The NBA gets no cut of it! They do get a little more time to evaluate the talent though... and they try to say that it allows the players to grow physically more as well. But this is not the NFL! The size issue is not the same in basketball as it is in football! There may not be one high school football player that can walk in to the NFL and have an impact tomorrow... but they can in the NBA! So why punish them? Why stop them from making the money that some team Scout, GM, Coach and/or Owner may feel they should be paid? If they are a bust, then the teams that decided sign them took a chance and it just did not pan out! There are many players that come out of college and are slotted to be the next best thing, and then turn out to be a bust! So, the risk is their regardless!
Brandon Jennings, a high school basketball player, is the highest recruited player in the country this year. Jennings has signed a commitment letter to attend the University of Arizona after he finishes high school. But, his grades and test scores are not where they need to be to get into the school. So now this Los Angeles native has decided to play one season in Europe. Jennings has been considering this option for a while, so it is not a major surprise. It is, however, ground breaking! Jennings, being the highest rated high school athlete in the country, is now sticking it to the NBA/NCAA age rule, and this may spark a trend over the next few years. While playing in Europe is not the same as playing in the NBA, the pay check can still be large. Not to mention that he will be able to see expand his game and personal growth while living and playing abroad.I am not saying that Jennings has made the right decision. But by not taking care of business with his grades, he removed options. College would have given him a chance to shine against younger players, while Europe will pin him up against adults, as well as putting him in a country that does not treat athletes the same as we do in America, so he may have to face some of the nightmare stories that we hear from players over there!Now, there is one thing that I like about this rule; it forces high school athletes to get the grades needed to go to school. Not having that option when the time comes can be costly. Even in Jennings case, he more than likely would have been in Arizona next season had he had the option!In the end, this rule should prove to have a positive impact on the game at both levels. The NCAA will have these stand outs for one season (or more if they decide they enjoy it, or they need to raise their stock more.) The NBA will have a better look at them and hopefully be able to weed out the busts a little better.
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But the big impact should lay with the athletes themselves. If these young men get the grades and test scores to attend college, it should prove to be a valuable part of their life in general! After all, the ability to play sport is not promised and no one will play forever, so having getting a (free) education to fall back on will help after their playing days are over.