Draft rules hurt NCAA program stability

This year’s NCAA Division I Men’s College Basketball class is looking to be one of the most exciting in recent history. With players like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, next year’s draft class looks to be loaded. Notice how I automatically assumed “next year’s draft class.” Going off of what Coach K stated last week about the culture of the “one-and-done” rule and the culture it is clear that this is helping create in the world of college basketball.

Instituted in 2005, this “one-and-done” rule makes it so players have to wait one year after leaving high school before they can become eligible for the NBA draft. This means that those who believe they are good enough for the NBA right out of high school must wait and will most likely eventually sign to play college ball. Thus, players are going to college with the intent to leave after a year. College is not college, but it is instead a stepping stone straight to the NBA. Some players, like Brandon Jennings, forwent college altogether and instead played a year overseas before joining the league. Part of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, the league felt as though this switch would help minimize the risk of teams selecting players who looked incredible in high school, yet were not nearly ready or skilled enough for NBA competition. Teams would have almost nothing to go by if a player did not play against significant competition in college. College can be seen as a sort of training ground or development league (never mind the NBA Development League). While players like LeBron James, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard were able to successfully make the leap and become NBA superstars, other players right out of high school have not followed this exact same path as others. Thus this year gap could hypothetically provide athletes with an opportunity to grow and mature before entering the league.

Yet this “one-and-done” rule has not only impacted the NBA, but the entire world of college basketball as well. Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University is one of the most accomplished and respected college basketball coaches of all time and his comments regarding the effect this new rule is having on his world of college basketball have been spot on.

Coach K made the observation that changes are happening in college basketball. For example, and as expected, players are looking for a way to get to the NBA as soon as possible, rather than trying to build a strong team and truly be committed to the college program itself. There is more chatter about where this group of freshmen will land on draft day than there is about how they are impacting their schools and teams right now. Again, for casual viewers, the emphasis of the sport has completely shifted towards these superb freshmen and the majority of the college basketball world can thus seem obsolete at times. It seems as if coverage of these players is becoming intrinsically linked to NBA coverage. Krzyzewski acknowledges that college basketball is its own business, which itself is unnerving and uncomfortable, yet he strives to keep it separate from the NBA.

Aside from how players and fans view college basketball, changes from within the institution may also have a lasting impact on the future of the game. Coaches will have to change how they scout and build teams, banking on being able to gather enough “star” freshmen for a single year to be able to put a competitive and “marketable” team on the floor. The scariest thing is that college basketball has no influence over this rule. It is the NBA that has instituted this policy for its future players rather than the NCAA? There is nothing college basketball can do to stop or help change this trend at the moment. With all of this criticism, would a revert back to the original rule be beneficial?

High school players definitely seem to think so. From their standpoint, who can argue? If someone feels as though he or she is ready to make the leap, who should say that he or she can’t without a rational reason other than, he or she “may not be ready.” Arguing that players should be able to do what they want without restrictions is completely justifiable.

However, the NBA is rough. It isn’t like baseball where high school stars who get drafted almost always go to the minors to develop and ease into a starting spot on a Major League team. No. In the NBA, these Jabari Parkers and Andrew Wigginses will be thrust into the spotlight of an NBA franchise. They will have endless amounts of money thrust upon them along with the endless hopes of fans and commentators. The pressure to succeed and do so right away is tremendous and failure can be destructive, especially for a kid who has been nothing short of “the man” his entire life on the court.

Could the rule be extended to two years, perhaps? Someone within the realm of college basketball would certainly say yes. It would help bring stability back to the college game and allow teams to build programs. Maybe, and this is definitely a maybe, it would encourage more players to stay in school for three or four years rather than rush out right away. College would certainly seem more like a destination and an experience where players could not only hone their skills and learn the game better, but work for something special, helping to build the reputation of their schools and gain some personal and school pride. Yet the truth is, not every player will welcome or want this change. The question is really up in the air for now. I wonder: Coach K, what would you do?

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