There is a disturbing trend haunting college basketball these days. Cue Brandon Jennings.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan his. I love his game and I respect what he did. It’s a true testament to his character.
However, his actions have sent a dagger directly in to the heart of college basketball.
Moreover, after the draft, after he still went top-10 and proved all the skeptics wrong. The dagger has sunk deeper and deeper, and it doesn’t appear to be coming out anytime soon.
As detrimental to the game the one-and-done era has been, Jennings has single handedly trumped it. He’s made it clear a kid doesn’t even have to go that route if he wants to get to the NBA.
Take Florida’s Nick Calathes who just left after his sophomore year to sign a fruitful deal with Greek club Panathinaikos.
He made himself draft eligible and indeed he was, albeit in the second round. But why bother having to fight for a contract at training camp all summer?
He’ll live in beautiful Greece for a few years, where he already has citizenship anyway, make some serious bank then come kill it for the Mavs when he’s nice and ready.
Even if he’s not yet NBA-ready, and he knows it, what’s the point of sitting through class when you can get paid to do what your really only at that school for anyway.
In keeping with that, why even bother going to college? Right, Brandon? Worked for you.
Shoot, why even bother finishing high school?
Now, we’ve got this kid Jeremy Tyler from San Diego who is actually skipping his senior year of high school to go play in Greece, Italy, Spain or wherever. Granted, he’s enrolled in Penn Foster’s distance program so he will get his diploma and maybe even some college credit.
But what’s the point of playing against sub-par high school competition one more year and then another in college before you can actually make some money?
Why not go to Europe, see the World, become a millionaire, and seriously improve yourself by playing against top-notch professional athletes five to ten years your elder? Sounds good to me.
You can say what you want about the Brandon Jennings experiment, but it worked. Well, it worked for him at least. What it did for college basketball is another story.
My point here is that something needs to be done.
Honestly, the one-and-done thing is a joke, and everyone knows it. You only have to go to class one semester in order to stay eligible, anyway!
Do you think these kids actually take it seriously? They know why they’re there. They know what’s good. They know they’re going to be millionaires in less than a year, anyway.
I mean, why not go overseas for a year or two? You’ll make the money your family sorely needs, more money than you’d get from any booster, all the while improving your body, mind, and, of course, game. Then, simply, come back to the States when you’re twice the player you were when you left.
There won’t even be any one-and-doners in a few years. Well, there will be, but they’ll all just be playing for Olympiakos, Lottomatica Roma, or DKV Joventut.
What happens to the college game? At this point, who knows. So what can we do?
For starters, let’s revamp the NBDL. Let’s actually take it seriously, give it some credibility, and make it a viable option for potential one-and-doners.
Get the teams out of Fayetteville, Sioux Falls, and Albuquerque. Put them in New York, Chicago, and LA.
In keeping with the Euro League, make each NBDL team the B to their respective city’s NBA team’s A. If you’re cut from A, you can still go to B. If you play well for B, you can get called up to A.
Essentially a varsity and a JV, these high school kids should know about that. Let the B’s practice when the A’s practice. Let them work out together, let them scrimmage. The Premiership does that, why can’t the NBA?
Give them six-figure deals. Give them legit facilities. Give them real coaches and real competition. Turn this in to the premiere minor league in the world. Shoot, after a while, we’ll have European kids coming here just to play for the JV teams!
Maybe we can even place some of these JV teams in Europe, that would really blow people’s minds.
Let the high school kids declare for the draft. If they’re not picked, or even if they were and it doesn’t work out, let them play with the JV for a while as opposed to just riding the pine for the varsity.
Whoever drafted them can retain their rights and do with them as they please. In the meantime, closely tracking their development until they are indeed NBA-ready.
Maybe the NBA should do what the MLB does: Draft a high school kid. If he’s not satisfied and decides college would be better, don’t allow him to play in the NBA until he’s 21. Okay, maybe 20.
Ultimately, I don’t know what we can do. The new early entry rules are definitely a step in the right direction.
However, if this trend continues, soon there will be no McDonalds All-Americans gracing the campuses of American universities.
They’ll all be relaxing with beautiful women on a beach overlooking the Mediterranean having just come back from practice for the professional basketball team that just signed them to a one-year, $2 million contract.
Something desperately needs to be done, folks. Or our beloved, cherished, sacred game of college basketball will never be the same.
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