One-and-doners just another part of the game
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8:32 p.m.
Gentlemen, start your harumphing.
Let's chastise Kentucky basketball as being part of what's wrong with the sport. Let's blast the NBA and demand legislation, as if the NCAA has any control of the one-and-doners.
NBA commissioner David Stern has come out and said he wants players to have to stay in school for two years. The NBA's union is against the idea and actually doesn't want them to have to go to college at all. John Calipari has gone as far as to meet with union chief Billy Hunter. His reasons are selfish, because he gets the best players and wants them in Lexington for as long as possible.
With the latest Kentucky drive-by hoopsters announcing they will leave school just a few months after their orientation, the national debate begins again.
First of all, get over it. You'll feel a lot better. It's probably not going to change in the foreseeable future. And for all the talk about it hurting the college game, the March Madness ratings have actually been up the last two years. Attendance has slipped, but, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, it's more about the economy and TV than the quality of the product.
Since 2005 when the NBA decided to make kids go play college basketball for a minimum of one season, the one-and-done rule has been blasted annually. That Kentucky won it all with three fabulous freshmen in the starting lineup and that those freshmen are gone before they learned the school's fight song gets people riled up.
Calipari is not to blame, of course. He's playing within the rules. This time.
The NCAA is not to blame. This time.
But here's a question I have for you — why blame anybody?
Because it's easy.
It's easy to point out that colleges are about education and these kids only have to stay eligible for a semester before they're collecting the big bucks. Or that it's difficult to get into the game when players are gone before you learn what's on their iPods.
Me, I think we're making way too big a deal about it.
First of all, how many players are we talking about? There were 17 true freshmen who legitimately had decisions to make after this year's tournament. Eight of them decided to turn pro. Nine did not.
If losing eight players after a year of hoops is enough to destroy the game, it must be awfully fragile.
All eight of those players have one thing in common — they are expected to be first-round draft picks. Five of them could be gone by the time the draft selections get into double figures.
I know my position is contrary to the masses, but a lot of you are living in the short shorts and no 3-point line world. I think it's great that these young men at least get a season of college basketball and learn how to be great teammates and understand what it's like to live away from home before they head out into the cold, cruel world.
Certainly, it's better than letting them go straight from high school. At least they get a year with a coach yelling and the pressure ramped up and the crowds bigger. It's like going from a go-kart to a Jaguar before you jump in the race car and attack Daytona.
I certainly enjoyed watching Anthony Davis play college basketball. Seemed like a great kid. We know that Kentucky benefited from his one season. Florida isn't in the Elite Eight without Bradley Beal, and it was a joy to watch him play.
I guess my question is this — who's getting hurt by the one-and-done rule?
The integrity of the higher education institutions? Uh, that ship left town a long time ago, the first time an athlete graduated without basic reading skills.
The college coaches? Your choice. Take 'em or don't take 'em. It's your call.
The players? Millions in their pockets and an option to come back to college. Not a bad deal.
The college game? If college basketball is not the game it used to be, it's not because of the one-and-doners. Did they cheer any quieter in New Orleans than they did 25 years earlier? March Madness has never been more healthy.
The NBA? I'd have to watch a few games to tell you whether or not it's being hurt.
If nothing else, the Kentucky guys leaving school should make Gator fans appreciate the Oh-Fours that much more.
Maybe the answer to this dilemma is to declare freshmen ineligible. The NCAA has the power to do so. I wonder if the NBA teams would be quick to draft players who haven't been seen in a year.
But that's not going to happen either. College basketball will be back in November and we'll start paying attention in February. That's not the fault of the one-and-doners either.
It's just the way it is.
And it's not that big a deal.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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