There seems to be lot of disenchantment and bitterness towards the "one and done" rule (and 18-19 year old incredibly talented/athletically gifted kids who are operating through it) in the world of college basketball these days. Lot of people are feigning shock and outrage over kids like Love, Beasely, Mayo, Rose, Durant and Oden coming into college for one year and then quickly jumping over to the NBA.
I have no idea why this has been surprising to so many people given the way prepsters were routinely skipping college in favor of the NBA since the days of Garnett and Kobe (who may face off in the first Celtics-Lakers final that I am not going spend too much time watching). People like Plaschke (LA Times) and Mitch Albom (Detroit Free Press) are losing sleep over the current state of play.
I will admit Plaschke has a point when he argues the current "one and done" rule has reduced the college game into an "NBA minor league":
In no sport other than minor league baseball can a great player show up for one year, then just disappear to a better job in the same sport.
The senior leaders are now one-and-done freshmen. Star today, gone tomorrow. [...]
"The pros have ruined college basketball," former Bruins great Mike Warren said. "They've turned it upside down, turned it into an NBA minor league."
Warren does not agree that a player like Love will leave with no legacy. "He did more for UCLA in one year than some people do in four years," Warren said. "His legacy will last."
But let's get back to the point about the "one and done" rule reducing the college game into a minor league. Mitch Albom made the same argument in the Detroit Free Press:
They are the basketball version of in-transit passengers, the ones that go from one plane to another by walking through a special corridor. If you really attended college, you know its value. You learn to be a student, to live on your own, to make decisions about time, study, friends, to grow up.
You don't get that pulling on a uniform for a few months. Dick Vitale used to call these kids Diaper Dandies. Not anymore. Diapers don't have pockets. And stuffing pockets -- on both sides -- is all this charade is about.
Even if these guys are making the right point, I wonder if we are going to sense that outrage in the next column when they are glorifying the world of the Lakers and Pistons. You know the league "where amazing happens"?
I put up the post on the Lakers/UCLA football for a reason. I thought it was interesting to see how many UCLA fans responded in that thread and wrote about how much they love their Lakers. Well, I tell you what. I am with Menelaus:
I'm not all the way with Fox in not minding if the Lakers went the way of the Washington Generals, but I'm not too far off.
Is there a solution to this mess? There probably is. Gene Wojciechowski from WWL suggested in a system that resembles the MLB draft:
And the NCAA ought to get out of the enabling business. Being at school isn't the same thing as being in school. Rationalize it any way you want, but one and done is mercenary sports, nothing more.
But if the NBA insists on an age minimum, then the least it can do is consider Major League Baseball's draft stance. It isn't perfect, but it beats this mess.
MLB drafts high school players. But if you sign with a four-year college instead of the pros, then you have to wait until after your junior season (or 21st birthday) to be eligible for the draft again. If you drop out of college, you have to petition the commissioner's office for entry into the draft.
No more one and dones. No more one-semester students. This way you give everyone a choice: the NBA, the high school stars and the D-I programs. It's what you call, "taking it to the next level."
However, for the time being, all Coach Howland can do is play by the rules. He can make sure he puts together a team of student athletes (who are qualified based on UCLA's academic standards) who play by the rules and give him the best opportunity to compete at the elite level year after year. That means bringing in recruits who could potentially leave after one or two years and also bringing in kids like Roll, Mata et al who will grow and develop into good college players staying for the entire 4-5 years.
Is the system fun? Of course not. But does that mean we take our disenchantment and frustration and direct it towards kids who are playing by the rules that have been set up by the NCAA and the NBA? Absolutely not.
I am all for reforming the system. But until that happens I am not going to direct my frustrations at kids like Love who stay in the program for one year or kids like Jrue Holiday who may not last at UCLA for more than 1-2 seasons.
Why get angry at kids who have grown up in an MTVized corporate sports culture of the NBA, who have been brainwashed to think it's Staples not Pauley "where amazing happens"?
Why get angry at kids who see the life styles of gazillionare NBA athletes routinely glamorized on ESPN and MTV?
If you want to do something about this problem, then put pressure on the officials who run the NBA and the NCAA. Put pressure on the actual people who don't have the emotional investment in their alma maters or schools like you or I do. Put pressure on the people who only care about the bottom line, which is to pocket as much $$$ for their respective institutions. By all means, use the platform we have on BN. If you want to reform the process badly ... organize. Write your heart out to keep the discussion going and get others to join in. But don't get bitter at the 18 year old kids who are playing by the rules.
Oh, and keep in mind when you are taking in those "amazing" Laker games at Staples or whatever way you are supporting the NBA, you are also playing a role in supporting an institution that is hugely responsible for the sorry state of basketball in America today. I am not saying that people should be boycotting the NBA. All I am saying is to keep that in the back of your minds. As for me, like Menelaus, bruinbabe, and tasser I have lost all interest and passion for the NBA for what it has done to the landscape of the college game. Plus, I find the one-on-action with no defense in the NBA games boring and ugly.
Meanwhile, I am going to put my faith in Coach Howland. I will root for the players he bring in who to date have been remarkable in the way they represent our alma mater both on and off the court. Ben Ball at Pauley: in my book that's the kind of setting where 'amazing' actually happens.