College Basketball or Pro Ball?: Stay in School for the Love of the Game

Mike ArrowsmithCorrespondent IMay 12, 2008

As I turn on the TV to watch a college basketball game, I can't help but ponder how much the game has changed in recent years.  I'm not talking about the rules and regulations.  I'm talking about the young bucks who are considering leaving college early for the NBA draft.

In the last few years, a rule was created that required players to play college basketball for at least one year before turning to the pros.  I believe this is a good rule for many reasons. 

For starters, it brings a lot more talent and intensity to the NCAA.  In recent years, college basketball fans have gotten to see the wonders of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley in action.  Overall, it has made the game much more competitive and even more exciting come March.  This even allows for NBA scouts to get a better look at an individual in the playoffs.

I also like this rule because I believe that it gives the players an opportunity to mature.  Does everybody remember Kwame Brown?  If not, allow me to refresh your memory. 

Brown was drafted to the NBA as the first overall pick by the Washington Wizards right out of high school.  He was considered by many to be the top high school player in the country. He seemed to be the golden boy coming into the NBA.

After one season of action, Brown was putting up decent rookie numbers. He scored a few points here and there, but nothing amazing.

Then came Year Three of Brown's career.  The Wizards found themselves in the second round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls and Brown was complaining for not receiving enough playing time.

If I'm an NBA coach in a playoff game, I'm turning to my seasoned veterans.  Yet, Brown continued to feud with All-Star point guard Gilbert Arenas and head coach Eddie Jordan.  To me, this is just a lack of maturity, which four years in college might have subdued to some extent.

I'm not saying college basketball is the cure all for all athletes, but it at least enables young kids to find out if the can handle the pressure that the next level provides.

I also think that college basketball players should go to college all four years.  I don't say this because I love watching them on the court, but I believe everyone should get his degree.  There is nothing more important in life than a college education.

There is the lucky 1 percent of Americans that will go pro in sports.  Everyone else is headed for the workforce.  However, what we can't predict is a career-ending injury.

Then what? You left college early. You don't have an education. Good luck finding a job.

That is why the player I respect the most in the NCAA is Tyler Hansborough.  Hansborough could've easily elected to go pro at the end of his freshman year.  However, he decided to get his four-year education.  I have tremendous respect for him for putting his priorities in line and doing what is truly important.

So, now I'm back in front of my TV and I'm watching the news surrounding O.J. Mayo and his place in the NBA.  I thought to myself, what happened to playing for the love of the game?

What's so appealing about going to the NBA?  Money?  Sure!  These players are so caught up in playing to get to the next level that they can't even stop to enjoy the moment.

My message to the college basketball players out there...Enjoy living in the moment.  Enjoy the feeling of euphoria when your shot kisses the net.  Feel the magic of the ball coming into your hands off a sweet pick and roll bounce pass.

Get your education.  If you are destined for the NBA, then great.  If not, so be it.  Just try and rekindle the college basketball magic that was lost due to the NBA speculations.