The Unaccompanied Minors of the NBA

Making the crucial decision to enter the NBA draft as early as possible is undoubtedly a tremendously difficult one that encompasses so many varying factors of life itself.  Family, friends and slick agents all have an opinion with regards to what the young player’s best course of action may be.

Take a player like freshman sensation, John Wall from the University of Kentucky.  Even before he stepped foot onto Rupp Arena, many analysts and coaches had long been touting him as an automatic lottery pick, if not the first overall pick, in this year’s NBA Draft. With the Washington Wizards having acquired the top pick, John has been tabbed as the “no-brainer” choice.

Wall had an amazing year under the tutelage of coach John Calipari, who also instructed current league stars, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans in their respective single-season college campaigns.  I watched nearly all of the Kentucky games that were televised nationally and I’ve been advocating Wall as having the potential to be a notch above Rose and Evans from day one.

It’s obvious that it is in John Wall’s best interest to go pro, but that assessment is precisely what causes the canvas to shift from landscape to abstract.  From Wall’s perspective, he’s had his fun with the college game and is clearly anxious to take his game to the highest levels of basketball. If you look at it from UK’s point of view however, you’re left with nothing but a tease of a season that fell just short of a Final Four appearance, which only sparks wonders of “what if?”

Such is the current state of the relationship between the NCAA and the NBA.  I was personally upset by the early departures of Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday from UCLA in the last two years.  As a Bruin, I couldn’t help but feel like they walked away even before playing their best game as a collegiate athlete.

On top of his lackluster NCAA Tournament, I also did not appreciate Love shedding twenty pounds prior to the draft, after huffing and puffing with his previously gluttonous self in the Final Four against Memphis, a game in which Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggart ran all over him up and down the court.

In this sense, I plead, why even have an age requirement?  I agree with Bob Knight that the one-year college requirement is basically insulting not only the college game itself, but also what it really means to attend a university.  By mandating players to attend school, the act of enrolling and experiencing college life becomes a jest of sorts – more so than if there was no age restriction at all.

Expecting a top-flight player or two to be able to shoulder the burden of lofty expectations of winning a national championship in just one year is playing with fool’s gold. As we even saw with coach Calipari’s Wildcats in this year’s NCAA tournament, freshman players, no matter how talented, are more than susceptible to succumbing to the pressure of playing on one of the grandest stages basketball has to offer.

I’d honestly rather hand out scholarships to players that want to truly experience the college game and that care about winning for the pride of the school for which they play. I’m not close to being sold on the one-and-done trend that so many young superstar players are following.

NEXT: High School Studs
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