The NCAA's Brain Drain is the NBA's Game Drain

Jordan cannot even believe the mess he is a part of.

Over the past fifteen years the NCAA and collegiate basketball recruiting have undergone a major paradigm shift.  The goal of the NCAA for years has been to ensure that student athletes receive a proper education as well as pursue their athletic dreams.  The NCAA website explains that its core values are advancing academics, providing opportunities, developing life skills, and enhancing communities.  Although I agree that the NCAA’s heart is in the right place, it appears that over the past decade and a half that at least in college basketball recruiting those values do not take precedent to other “values” such as what kind of monetary value a program can bring to a university.  My caveat is that I understand that many programs do follow the value system of the NCAA; however many if not most of the power house schools such as Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Connecticut, and many others do not stay true to the values.  This I believe is due mainly in part to recruiting practices, changes in the rules, and a shift in attitude towards what the NCAA is by many schools.

            In the 1980s and 1990s it was not uncommon for great athletes to stay in school for more than one year.  Greats such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, and nearly the entire Dream team and the 1996 USA  team all attended college for at least three years.  The idea throughout the years for these players was to recruit them into programs where they could learn and mature into adults as well as develop their skill sets to advance them to the next stage of their lives. Then came the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s.  NBA teams began to realize potential in younger and younger athletes.  Next came Kwame Brown.  He was the first overall pick of the 2000 draft straight out of high school and largely seen as the biggest draft bust in NBA history (and possibly sports history next to Ryan Leaf of the NFL).    When the NBA commissioner David Stern realized how many of these athletes were not mature enough for the limelight and financial burden of the NBA new rules were put in place.  Stern initially wanted the age limit to be 20 however finally negotiated to set the age at 19 to enter the NBA which began in 2006.  This led college basketball recruiting into the age of “one and done”.  The “one and done” rule has been a major stain on several NCAA programs in that many programs recruit these highly talented, potentially NBA ready prospects with the promise that the athletes can use the program as a one year platform to send them straight into the NBA.  The rule is not necessarily ridiculous but the fact that NCAA programs are using it as a method of recruitment is absurd and contradictory to their core values.

             Obviously the choice is ultimately up to the athlete, but is an 18 year old kid really capable of making such a decision?  If not, who helps him make the decision?  Is it the NBA?  Is it the parents?  Is it his community?  Or is it the NCAA?  If it is the NCAA then do they not owe an explanation for the 25 Shawne Williams’ they produce for every Kevin Durant or Dwayne Wade?  Can you or anyone you know give one single example of a one and done player that actually made it from its inaugural year in 2006?  I suppose LSV made it to the final four that year with one and done Tyrus Thomas.  Wait…who? Tyrus Thomas, the 4th overall pick in 2006 who spent his entire career trying to develop his skill set while he warmed the bench and failed in his starting tryouts.  My point is not that some 18 year olds are not ready for the NBA.  My point is that many NCAA schools saw the “one and done” rule as an opportunity to recruit players in a certain manner that would essentially profit the school and not necessarily the athlete in the long run.  If the rule remains, perhaps the NCAA should consider changing its own rules.  If the NCAA really appreciated the potential these young men have they would understand that a year or two more in their programs might benefit them from a maturity and developmental standpoint.  The NBA should not be able to dictate the direction of major NCAA programs but with the “one and done” rule they do.  There is always the option to play overseas or play in the D-League.  Either get rid of the rule and let these kids roll the dice or develop a better farm system in the D-League.  But either way stop tormenting college basketball fans with these one hit wonders and stop diluting the NBA with wasted potential.  The NCAA has a commitment to the betterment of their athletes.  It’s a shame to see some talent go to waste.  Or maybe I just really miss the 90s.  I hear New Kidz on the block went on tour with Boyz 2 Men this year? Nevertheless, I would love to see these hard working kids get through the politics of professional and collegiate sports and succeed where they truly deserve to.