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The Train Keeps Coming and Leaving

Every year, a train of top talent comes rolling through college basketball and lights up the court like nothing fans have ever seen. You blink, and then they’re gone. Where did they go? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they left. The one-and-done system in college basketball seems to take a certain level of competition out of the game. Fans don’t get the chance to see these talented players develop their game before heading to the NBA. There are few great players whose career fans can follow all the way through. Every year, schools have new players that become the focal point of that team.

For four years, when you thought of North Carolina basketball, you immediately thought of Tyler Hansbrough and his 20.2 ppg or his 53.5 FG%. His game developed in front of fan’s eyes and game after game they saw his dominance in the paint. For most top talent players, fans get one year of stats and one year of memories. The term “career” seems not to have the same meaning in college basketball. High salaries and an immediate starting position give college kids all the motivation they need to head to the NBA.

Think of the great players that have left early. When Greg Oden played for Ohio State, fans got to see one of the most dominant big men in recent history. His presence in the paint could send any intruder running scared.  The NCAA tournament game between Ohio State and Georgetown back in 2007 was one of the most hyped up games at the time. Greg Oden vs. Roy Hibbert was the best center matchup in recent memory. That 2006-2007 Ohio State team had great talent including Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook. This was a team that had all the potential for dominance in college basketball. That level of competition is not seen very much anymore. In some cases, players need to stay in college and develop their game. Many times fans have seen players who were not ready leave early. In several of these cases, the players never adapt to the pro game and end up having mediocre careers.

Once again, Coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats landed a top talent recruiting class that includes 4 of the top 10 recruits in the country, including six McDonald’s All-Americans. Leading the recruiting class is the #2 recruit in the country, 6’9 PF Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy). Randle seems to be a solid replacement for 2012 Wildcat Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel in the paint and he will continue to keep Kentucky’s frontcourt dominant. Along with #9 recruit Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy), Calipari could have the most dominant combination of big men in the country. Located around the perimeter will be the #5 recruit PG Andrew Harrison (Travis High School) and the #7 recruit SG Aaron Harrison (Travis High School). These twins hope to elevate Kentucky’s guard play from last season which was not up to Calipari’s usual standards. Kentucky had a great eight man recruiting class this year that was clearly the best in the country. With talent like this, fans would hope to have them stick around a while. Every fan would love to have the chance to see a potential dynasty formed and be able to cheer on these great teams for longer than just one year.

It’s easy to see why many college players leave early for the NBA. That kind of money would be tempting for anyone. Also, the risk of injury in college that could be threatening to one’s career is a major concern. The main argument for college players staying is competition. Think of the great teams college basketball would have if top coaches could recruit talent for four years and build the near perfect team. Coaches like Calipari or Duke Head coach Mike Krzyzewski have all the recruiting potential in the world to build these teams that fans desperately want to see. Only time will tell what road college basketball will take and if the train stays for a while or just keeps moving along.