Preps Need College
This is a cry for a time when high school basketball players stayed in college four years before leaving for the NBA. The way it works now is that a high school senior must play at least one season at the college level or play overseas before making himself eligible for the draft.
Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, in his third pro season, is averaging nearly 30 points a game, second best in the league after one season at the University of Texas, while Memphis shooting guard O.J. Mayo, scoring almost 18 points, toiled one season at USC.
Milwaukee rookie point guard Brandon Jennings didn’t attend college, but played a year in Italy.
The real losers aren’t the players, who are generously compensated for their sweat. Instead, it’s the hoop fans and institutions who suffer. Many high-end pros aren’t fully developed beyond rising to the rim and dunking the ball. Ask them to nail a free throw or make an open jumper.
An example of players departing early and diluting the product resides at UCLA. Just how bad is it in Pauley Pavilion, home to a record 11 national championships?
After falling to Arizona State last Saturday, 56-46, in a Pacific 10 Conference game, the Bruins dropped to 13-17. In part, UCLA has been decimated by the premature departures of Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.
It’s not a matter of begrudging them the cash, or the opportunity. Rather, it’s that they left college without even blinking an eye. Some have suggested, and rightly so, that they were merely rented.
Bill Walton played on UCLA’s varsity from 1971 until 1974, and collected two national crowns. In those days, players weren’t allowed to play as freshman.
After a Hall of Fame NBA career, Walton said though he understands why guys leave early, it’s far better to stay four years and experience the college game.
“It was the best time of my life,” said the one-time center. “I was going to school, playing basketball, and we were winning. What’s better than that?”
It was a much simpler era, but the sentiment is on the mark. Even Duke, which has won three titles, and has been a powerhouse for several decades, is also losing players to the NBA.
Because Blue Devils’ players stayed four years, this helped them win consecutive banners in 1991 and 1992. But when power forward Elton Brand left Duke early for the money grab, he set an ugly precedent that continues today, and the school has paid a steep price.
Longtime college hoops Head Coach Bobby Cremins was asked once would he recruit a player he knew was only going to stay a season or two.
“I’d still go after him,” he said. “I figured better to have him for as long as I can, than not at all. The alternative would be that he’d go directly to the pros from high school.”