NCAA Basketball and the Freshman Exodus

Olaf BerserkusCorrespondent IApril 15, 2008

This is the time of year, after the NCAA Tournament, that college players start declaring for the NBA draft. This year, just like last year with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, some of the biggest names to declare will be freshman.

Some have the talent; it is true. 

Michael Beasley, PF from Kansas State, is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft after a season in which he averaged 26.2 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game, third and first in the nation respectively. Another freshman, Derrick Rose, PG from Memphis, right behind him at No. 2. Others such as OJ Mayo (SG from USC) and Eric Gordon (SG from Indiana) are also projected to be drafted in the top 10.

What remains to be seen about these men is whether they are ready for the next level, not as players, but as men. The idea of 19-year-old young adults being paid millions of dollars to play a game, when they could be getting an education that could better serve them, is a little shocking. The culture of money that now controls the minds of not only pro players but now college players is getting to be a little much.

When the NBA instituted the new draft rule (through the Collective Bargaining Agreement) disallowing high schoolers to make the jump to the pros, many people rejoiced. The college game had been missing out on some of the best players in the land.

It is still, however, not much better. Many of these stars who would have gone from prep to pro are now just going to one year of college. While it provides for exciting storylines in that one year (take a look at this years college basketball season), it often leaves the fans wanting more. Could Michael Beasley have won a national championship in Manhattan, Kansas? 

Now we will never know.

Many of these athletes reach the NBA as raw talent after just one year in college, needing time to adjust to the pro game's pace and players. Their skill sets are unrefined and while raw talent may have been able to get the job done in the college game against many lesser athletes, the same cannot be said for the NBA. These young men could refine their game in college and get an education at the same time.

There are still other high profile freshman who have not declared yet, such as Kevin Love of UCLA. As a fan of the college game, I hope they stay. 

As someone who wants to see these young men grow into something more, I hope they stay.