Saturday, December 15, 2007

One and Done

This is the second year of the NBA's new policy of restricting the NBA Draft to players nineteen and older, causing many of the top high school players who would have gone straight to the pros to go to college for one year. Many people around college basketball think it is a great rule because the talented freshmen improve the college game. Freshmen sensations Greg Oden and Kevin Durant swept the nation with Oden leading Ohio State to the Championship game and Durant becoming the first freshman ever to win the national player of the year award. Oden and Durant went numbers one and two in the 2007 NBA Draft, and probably would have been the top two picks the year before if the new rule hadn't been passed.

Other critics claim that the new age restriction hurts college basketball and the NBA. All the top freshmen are “one and done”, just playing for one year then bolting for the NBA. This new “one and done” trend is related to the recent success of the mid-major conferences. It isn't so much that the mid-major teams have gotten better; the major conference teams have just gotten worse. The mid-majors don't get top recruits, but their players stay for all four years, and it is their experience that has made them so successful. For example, look at the 2006 NCAA Tournament and George Mason's upsets of North Carolina and UConn. George Mason was a team led by seniors and upperclassmen. They had been playing together for four years in Jim Larranaga's system. North Carolina won the Championship the year before, but they lost all their key players to the NBA: sophomores Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Sean May, and freshman Marvin Williams. North Carolina's 2006 team was led by freshman of the year Tyler Hansborough. UConn also had a young team led by Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone, Denham Brown, and Rashad Anderson who all left for the NBA after that season. If these top NBA-talented players stayed in school for three to four years, the mid-majors wouldn't have a chance because they would lose their advantage of experience.

The problem is that you have kids being forced to go to college even though they really don't want to be there. Dick Vitale proposed a rule to make players stay for at least three years. He includes an exception for extremely talented players like Kevin Garnett and LeBron James to go straight to the NBA out of high school. Jermaine O'Neal, who went straight to the NBA out of high school, has criticized the NBA's new rule, stating that racism was the reason why they implemented the age restriction in the NBA, but not in the MLB or NHL. However, the real reason for the rule isn't racism or providing kids an education; it's all about the money. Basketball and football are very popular collegiate sports, but nobody cares about college baseball or hockey. With NBA talent like Oden and Durant in college, ratings soared for college basketball, producing a lot of money for the networks. That's why there's an age restriction in the NFL. College football and basketball generate too much money, and if all the top talent jumped straight to the pros the college game would become irrelevant.

I think the rule is beneficial to the majority of high school prospects. Most players aren't like LeBron James, ready to lead an NBA team straight out of high school, and college gives them a chance to improve their game against better competition. Look at Syracuse's Paul Harris for example. He was likely to declare for the NBA draft until they made the new age restriction. In his freshman year he struggled, realizing he wasn't quite ready for the NBA. Now in his second year at Syracuse, he's improving dramatically. Although the rule benefits some, it should be removed. Inevitably a person should be able to do what they want. If they think they're ready to go to the NBA they should be able to, but as a college basketball fan I have to admit it's been fun watching these great freshman.

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