Like most I talk to or correspond with, I dislike the one-and-done rule that has governed college basketball and the NBA since 2006. Intended to prevent misguided high school seniors from declaring for the NBA draft, the policy has benefited no one.
But at day’s end, the rule has not ruined either product. Are some teams and programs diminished? Absolutely. Have some young people been ill-served? No doubt.
That’s why there’s a chorus calling for change, including new NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
But when the league this week released the final list of early entries for next month’s draft, we were reminded how limited in scope one-and-done is.
Of the 45 college players declaring, only nine are freshmen. And they hail from only seven schools: Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Indiana, UCLA, Syracuse and Arizona. None of those programs is going to wither on the vine because of an early entry or two.
Similarly, nine freshmen bailed last year, 10 in 2012. Hardly a parade.
Now as someone who covers the college game and prefers it to the pros, I would certainly like to see Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid as sophomores at Kansas, Julius Randle and James Young back at Kentucky, and Tyler Ennis and Jabari Parker returning to Syracuse and Duke, respectively. And I understand fans of those programs who lament the players’ brief stays and consider them temps.
I also understand fans who wonder if marquee freshmen with one foot out the door poison team chemistry. John Calipari has succeeded wildly in coaching such talents, at Memphis and Kentucky, but others have struggled.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski might have a fifth national title had freshman Kyrie Irving remained healthy in 2011, but his 2012 and ’14 teams underperformed in the NCAA tournament with Austin Rivers and Parker. Kansas’ Bill Self saw his second-seeded Jayhawks, with Wiggins and Embiid, fall to 10th-seeded Stanford in this year’s South Regional.
Not to suggest pinning those defeats squarely on the rookies. But there’s no question that freshman-oriented teams are vulnerable in March.
There’s also no doubt that without the NBA’s current restriction — draft prospects must be at least 19 years old or one year removed from high school — some of those young men would have bypassed college completely.
That’s why baseball’s model is ideal. Players are eligible to be drafted as high school seniors but not again until college juniors. Translation: Those who opt for college are obligated for more than a cup of coffee.
Better yet, baseball prospects don’t declare for the draft. If a Major League organization considers a high school senior worthy, and believes it can sign him, draft away and let the negotiations commence. Players can actually use college scholarship offers as leverage if they believe the MLB team is low-balling him.
Conversely, basketball forces players not only to declare but also to abide by deadlines established solely to benefit college coaches. That’s an issue unto to itself and one that the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy sagely examined last month.
If basketball embraced a baseball-like system, say with a two- rather than three-year college minimum, the rare LeBrons and Kobes could exit their senior prom and head to the NBA. Most others would gravitate toward college, which would offer a multi-year apprenticeship, and, if the player chose to take advantage, an invaluable education, degree or not.
Understand the often-inept NCAA has little, if any, influence on this matter — then-NBA commissioner David Stern and the league’s players union compromised on the current rule. But Stern’s successor, Adam Silver, says he is determined to increase the NBA’s age limit to 20.
That’s far from ideal, but it’s better than what we have.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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