Prized Arizona PG recruit Brandon Jennings isn’t going to wait for the NCAA Clearinghouse to give the thumbs-up to his recent SAT scores so he can be a one-and-done in Tucson — he’s decided to follow through on his initial thought and will be heading to Europe to burn his one season between graduating and entering the NBA Draft for 2009.
All I can say is: more power to him, and I hope this is the way talented ballers will go in the future.
I love college basketball, but I hate the pretense now required by the NBA that forces top prospects into a year at a big-name university before making millions. Yes, it’s nice to be able to recognize the lottery picks since they spent a year in the NCAA ranks, but is that really better for the game, the universities, and for the players? It’s definitely better for the game, as the NCAA is only game in town when it comes to exposure to pro scouts for American prospects. But it’s not better for the academic integrity of the universities (let us note that university presidents have no problems with this; this is about TV money to them) and it isn’t better for the players who want no part of pretending to be a student any longer.
When we go through the pretense of William Rhoden’s “Conveyor Belt”, which is the confluence of AAU leagues, big time college programs, and professional standards that the New York Times columnist expounded upon in 40 Million Dollar Slaves, we are feeding a system that does a disservice to the players.
These are 18-year old students, many of them being shipped around in various public schools due to the desire to grow their basketball talent; some are well-educated, others aren’t. The reasons we buy into the “need” for collegiate athletes in basketball and football — and for those athletes to go to college — are thus:
- It’s the primary method of getting to the NBA or NFL, essentially respective minor leagues
- Many of the straight-to-NBA folks didn’t pan out
- There’s a lot of “everyone should go to college”, particularly towards young, black men from lower class neighborhoods involved
Neither of the latter two reasons should matter one iota in your mind. 18 year old kids should be able to ply a trade in the major leagues of any sport; if you can fight and die in a war, it seems silly that you can’t be drafted by an NBA team if you’re talented enough.
Eventually, Jennings’ decision became possible not only because the NBA insists on using the NCAA as its plantation and nursery for young talent (to the detriment of universities, who get to deal with the risk of having a one-and-done damage its APR rating and put scholarships at risk) but also due to its refusal to make the D-League into a promising enough option for players looking to make a decent wage and work their way up into the NBA.
If there’s any way I’d like this to end for Jennings, I want him to be a lottery pick in 2009, and prove that the path to the NBA through the Euroleague is a valid one. It will save us all — observers, collegians, players, students, and fans — from having to accept a completely false pretense as the standard for a sport, one that does a disservice to the player while lining the pockets of the schools, the conferences, and the NCAA.
UA signee Jennings picks Europe [Arizona Republic]