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The Inefficiency of the "One and Done" System

Kentucky Coach John Calipari

Coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats basketball program has become synonymous with the slang term “one and done”. “One and done” refers to the NCAA rule that states a player is not eligible to declare for the NBA Draft until they are 19 years old and/or are one year removed from high school basketball. This forces high school players to attend an NCAA team for at least a year before heading to the NBA.

The one and done system works for gaining television ratings and creating freshman star studded teams but the current system also hurts the integrity of the game itself. Teams that follow Coach Cal’s model are reloading annually on top recruits. Players come on campus for one year, play and enjoy college and then depart for the NBA; usually without an NCAA championship and without the goal of fulfilling the NCAA mission of creating “student-athletes.”

Coach Calipari has become the golden boy of recruiting one and done players. Kentucky has state of the art facilities, a rich program history, a great fan base and lots television time to offer. All of these come together to give recruits an opportunity they can’t turn down. This year Kentucky has on paper has recruited one of the best recruiting classes ever signing the #1 SG, #1 PG, #1 PF, #2 C, #3 SF, #8 PF and a few others. However, as Kentucky learned last season and history has shown, getting the #1 class doesn’t yield a championship or a deep tournament run. In fact, even coach Calipari himself has shown distaste towards the current one and done system.

Of the best overall recruiting classes of the past ten years per Rivals.com, only one team has won the big dance, the 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only 5 out of the 10 teams have made it past the Elite Eight, with Kentucky contributing four of those visits. Four of the teams did not even make the NCAA Tournament but the NIT, including the 2012 defending champions Kentucky Wildcats. However, does deserve to be mentioned that not all the teams that had the #1 recruiting classes have had all of their players leave after their freshman year. Some of those players remain in school to make a run at a title, like the 2006 class of freshman at UNC did who later won the title in 2009 or how Alex Poythress of Kentucky did this last season after failing to make the NCAA Tournament.

Examining the past 10 national champions, only two teams were led any of the major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists) by a true freshman. The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats led by Anthony Davis and the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen led Carmelo Anthony. The remaining eight teams were led by senior or junior leadership and in some cases and freshman play key roles (i.e. Jeremy Lamb in UConn’s 2011 run).  Recruiting a great group of freshman and having them stay on board for 3 or 4 years, is a much more sustainable and less volatile way to make a deep run into the tournament. Team chemistry and the mental fortitude to play through adversity are true barometers of a championship team and are cultured through multiple seasons. From this past tournament unheralded 9 seed Wichita State, had great team chemistry that helped the Shockers "upset" their way into the Final Four. The defending champions Louisville Cardinals had a huge test of mental fortitude when forward Kevin Ware suffered a horrific leg injury, the team rallied around senior guard Peyton Siva and the Cardinals marched on to a national championship. Teams like Kentucky that are consistently reloading with freshman talent can be extremely volatile throughout the season, The 2013 Wildcats did not respond effectively to Nerlens Noel's injury and ended up being upset in the first round of the NIT. Utilizing the one and done approach to consistently reload a program is a true boom or bust approach, where busting has been more likely.  

The NCAA/NBAPA has three options, they can stick with their current format, they could revert back and allow going straight to the NBA from high school or they could adopt a format similar to the NCAA football and force students to attend for 2+ years. The third option would create for a higher quality college basketball across the nation and could even out recruiting between historical behemoths schools like Duke and Kentucky and rising Mid-majors like VCU and Xavier.  Programs like Xavier and VCU have taken unheralded recruits like Larry Sanders, David West and Eric Maynor and developed them into NBA players; with a top ranked recruit, programs like Xavier and VCU could produce even more NBA prospects, this would increase the talent going into the draft and across the NBA.

For example, imagine if by NCAA rules #1 NBA Draft pick Anthony Davis had to stay for a 2nd year at Kentucky. The following recruiting class would likely not have had Nerlens Noel in it because they both play center and would be competing for playing time. Nerlens would most likely have taken a back seat and learned from Davis or Noel could adjust and go to a school that was going to offer him a chance to start immediately, let’s say Georgia. Nerlens attending UGA would obviously improve the quality of Georgia and in turn make the SEC much more competitive conference from top to bottom. The domino effect from the increased competition would lead to increased television time for UGA and more money for UGA and the SEC. This happening across the country would mean that some of the elite prospects in the nation may turn down Kentucky or Duke and go play for VCU or Xavier, evening out the playing field across the board.

            Abolishing the one and done system would allow for better quality teams across the nation. It would also give the NBA more finely tuned players entering the league, allowing the NCAA to let players mature both as a man and as a basketball player. Until that happens, teams will have to depend on the proper mix of freshman and upperclassmen to make a run at the title.  Coach Calipari losing in the NIT first round may be great for him and the 2013-2014 Kentucky Wildcats, with Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein staying for their sophomore year and with the stellar class of freshman coming in, they could have the magical mix of chemistry and leadership through adversity that is necessary to make a run at the title.