With the announcement on Wednesday that all five starters for national champions the Kentucky Wildcats will be enrolling in the NBA Draft, the “One-and-Done” rule continues to spark a controversial debate.
College basketball fans, officials and even the media have reacted poorly to the rule change the NBA put in place in 2005, requiring athletes to be at least one year removed from their high-school graduation before playing professionally. The rule was implemented in response to the ever-growing number of high-school players skipping college for the pros.
This was not always the case, as most great players until the mid-1990s played two, three or even four years at their respective universities with the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan all staying for multiple years before turning pro.
The new generation of basketball players, one that is surrounded by social media, agents, high salaries and all the perks of being a professional, were enticed by the opportunity to take their talents to the highest level. By doing so, many players missed out on the opportunity to learn and develop some of the most important tools to becoming a successful NBA player.
Of course there have been some specific cases, most notably Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, who all went on to be superstars and future Hall of Fame players without playing a second of college basketball.
Of course, for every Kobe Bryant or Lebron James came a Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry and several other obscure names that would have benefited from learning the tools of the trade at the college level.
In response to the influx of high school talent entering the draft, the 2005 NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to put a one-year minimum limit on players being removed from high school. Ready or not, players enrolled at universities across the country.
Schools such as the Universities of Memphis, Kentucky, Texas and Ohio State University picked up these phenomenal basketball talents, knowing that they would be enrolled for just one season until they could meet the NBA age-minimum requirement and enter the draft.
Some universities seemed to benefit, most notably the University of Kentucky, whose coach, John Calipari, had the notoriety of recruiting top-level talent and producing NBA-ready players. After leaving the University of Memphis following a successful coaching run — which included “One-and-Done” talents, NBA MVP Derrick Rose and 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans — Calipari set his sights on the biggest of all programs, the Kentucky Wildcats.
In his three years as coach with the Wildcats, Calipari used his abilities as well as university resources to recruit some of the best freshmen classes of all time. In 2010 alone, five Wildcats were selected in the 1st round of the NBA Draft, four of which were freshmen.
With another group of freshmen departing after last year’s Final Four appearance, Calipari dug down deep and put together what will arguably go down as the greatest freshman recruiting class of all time. The team, led by player of the year Anthony Davis, went on to demolish the competition in route to a championship.
It came as no surprise that Davis, along with fellow freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, would be leaving Kentucky regardless of the outcome. Instead, Calipari continues to build his program with another powerful freshman class that will be able to compete.
The problem really lies within the NBA’s decision to alter the basketball landscape, making players wait and develop their craft before going out to the real world, so to speak. No one can condemn the NBA for wanting players to be ready, as well as develop at least some sort of education.
But players and universities are permitting loopholes, not holding players accountable and allowing their short college careers to revolve around the success they have on the court, not in the classroom.
The NFL has an age policy in place that requires players to be three years removed from high school, giving them enough time to develop and gain an education along with giving athletic programs a chance to continually build.
The college basketball landscape has to place the blame somewhere, and the NBA seems like the best target. However, the universities should really be looking at themselves for the likes of scandals, cheating and inappropriate behavior.
The University of Southern California is still suffering from their self-imposed violation for improper benefits for former freshman O.J. Mayo. The University of Memphis was involved in a scandal regarding Derrick Rose’s SAT exam.
In essence, these “One-and-Done” players are viewed as a commodity and moneymaker to the universities in which they are enrolled. When they are not rewarded for the revenues the schools make from their talents, there is no choice for these players other than to join the NBA after using the college platform as a stepping stone for the league.
If the universities want to hold someone accountable, they need to do look at themselves and realize that players do not view their college experience as anything more than a short stay until they make it to the top. While the NBA has internally discussed the possibility of adding one more year to the age minimum, the public outcry from holding players back from making a living would be just as negative a reflection on the league as the “One-and-Done” is at the college level.