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One and Done Rule Good for College Basketball?

An action shot of Nerlens Noel suffering a torn ACL during his freshman year at Kentucky

When the NBA instituted its age restriction rule in 2005, which states that a player must be 19 years old to be eligible to enter their name into the NBA draft, the phenomenon of the “one and done” player was born. One and done refers to a player who completes his freshman year and then foregoes the rest of his college eligibility in order to pursue his NBA career. Just like any debate, there are pros and cons that can be argued. Some people think its ruining the game, while others believe that getting premier players for a year that otherwise would have gone from high school to the NBA is good for college basketball.

Regardless of what side of the debate you agree with, it is undeniable that this rule has the greatest effect on the players themselves. Before the rule was instituted, great high school players just went straight to the association. Lebron James clearly didn’t need college basketball. Kevin Garnett didn’t need college basketball. But for all the Lebrons and Garnetts, there’s a player who went to the NBA out of high school and would consider it a mistake. Korleone Young, a star in high school during his senior season in 1998, entered the NBA draft that same year. He was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons, and played just 15 total minutes over a three game span in his entire NBA career. In 2009, he was arrested for missed child support payments. His high school coach and mentor, Ron Allen, thinks Young could have benefited from college. “Allen said Young's personal struggles are directly tied to his decision to enter the draft prematurely,” writes Myron Medcalf in an article appearing on ESPN’s website. “And that's why Allen supports the NBA's minimum-age requirement. He believes most players need college to develop the tools necessary to compete in the NBA. Even one season will help, he said.”

Young is one of many players to enter the league out of high school who did not have the kind of success they envisioned. The NBA certainly instituted the rule in order to better protect the investments their teams make on a player when they draft him. By making them go to college for a year, they get more game film on a player and get a player who has more life experience then a kid coming out of high school. Unfortunately, not everybody benefits from a year in college. Nerlens Noel was projected to be the number one pick in the 2013 NBA draft. In fact, many people thought he would have been the number one pick in the 2012 draft had he been eligible. Instead, Noel was required to play elsewhere for a year, and like many star high school players, chose to do so at Kentucky. Noel tore his ACL at Kentucky, and slipped to the number six pick in the 2013 draft, mostly due to his injury. Anthony Bennett, the number one pick, will make $4.43 million in his first year, $4.64 million in his second year and $4.84 million in his third. Noel, as the sixth pick, will get $2.64 million in the first, $2.76 million in the second and $2.88 million in the third. Clearly Noel could be considered a loser of the one and done rule. The only thing is he doesn’t consider himself one. Dana O’Neil, in a piece on ESPN quotes Noel as saying "I learned how to play and got to see how much it takes in terms of hard work," he said. "Coach Calipari busted on me in practice. He was all over me and I needed that. In high school you've got coaches kissing your butt and telling you how great you are. You need to find out that you're not that great."

Noel clearly doesn’t view his year at college as a loss, rather a year that transformed him as a person. But what if his injury had been more serious? What if a star player suffers a career ending injury during his only year at college? The debate about one and done players will rage on. Some people will always think it’s terrible for the game of basketball. Some people will like to see the star power in the game, even if only for one year. Personally, I like the rule because I think it is good for the kids. Their year at college is almost like a prep year for the NBA. They’re away from their parents, but they still got coaches looking out for them. They travel more and get used to what that is like. They get more media exposure and can learn how to handle difficult questions from reporters. I think the rule is good for both college basketball and the players, but I fear the day, if ever, a player’s future is changed because of an injury he suffers playing college basketball for a year because he was forced to.