First a quick lesson in basketball history: Back in 1967, a college freshman by the name of Spencer Haywood had dreams of joining the NBA, but no means of getting there for at least four years. The league had mandated that no player be eligible for inclusion in the NBA until at least four years after graduation from high school.
So, Haywood decided to get a little experience under his belt. As a college freshman, he attended Colorado Junior College, and as a sophomore he played a season at the University of Detroit. But, after two years, that itch to play professional ball just had to be scratched. Haywood decided he would play in the ABA, which of course is no longer around, but was the competitor to the NBA for quite some time.
In his first year with the Denver Rockets (predecessor of the Nuggets), Haywood torched the league for 30 points a game, and 19.5 rebounds. Needless to say, the guy won rookie of the year honors. But, that was the least of his accomplishments.After Haywood brought up issues with his Rockets' contract, claiming fraud, he bolted to play for the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA. The problem was, that little four year rule the league had in place. Considering Haywood had only been out of high school for three years, the NBA threatened to void his contract with the Sonics, and disallow him from playing.
Because of the threats, Haywood filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league, hoping to for an injunction that would allow him to play immediately for Seattle. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Hawywood won, with a 7-2 decision.
That ruling, forced the NBA to make a "hardship" exception to their four year rule. Players who could prove their "financial hardships" would be allowed to compete in the National Basketball Association. After just a couple of years, high school players began joining the league without any college experience.
Through the years, some of the guys that turned pro straight out of high school included Moses Malone (ABA), Darryl Dawkins, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kwame Brown, Amare Stoudamire, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard. Of course, after the new CBA in 2005, the rules were once again changed, and players now have to be 19 years old, in the calendar year of the draft, to be eligible.
Enough history, on to the rant: So, comes the one and done. We've seen it so many times, mostly from John Calipari players, who play one year of college basketball, and move on to the NBA. Granted, there are some extremely talented players out there, who have the physical abilities, and are emotionally ready to compete at the highest of levels. But, that's not the case for everyone.
One example, Omar Cook. Cook played a year at St. John's back in the early 2000's, and did well in that year. Well enough, that he felt he was ready for the NBA. In the 2001 draft, Cook was selected 3rd in the second round. And in case you're wondering why you've never really heard of this guy, it's because he never really made it in the NBA.
Another example, Jamal Sampson. Cousin of hall of famer Ralph Sampson, Jamal had his own dreams of achieving such great feats in the pro ranks. Unfortunately for him, things never really panned out. After a year at Cal, Sampson entered the NBA draft, and was selected 47th overall. After a few years of floating on and off of teams' rosters, Sampson went overseas to play in the Phillipines and China. After that, he made a second run at the NBA, but much like the first time around, things just didn't turn out as expected.
For argument's sake, let's do one more. Javaris Crittenton may or may not have had the talent necessary to be successful in the NBA, but what is for sure, is he didn't have the maturity. After a year at Georgia Tech, Crittenton turned pro, and was drafted 19th by the Los Angeles Lakers. Fast forward through a couple of years of mediocrity, to Crittenton's time with the Washington Wizards.
First, there was that altercation with Gilbert Arenas in the locker room. No one really knows exactly how things went down, but both wound up pulling guns on each other. Mind you, they were teammates. More recently, Crittenton was suspected as the shooter in the murder of 22 year old mother of four. He is out on bond, and currently awaiting trial.
Ok, I realize that regardless of how much time Crittenton spent in college, that may not have changed the path that he took. At the same time, there's really no way to argue that it wouldn't have changed it either. The point is, he wasn't ready, physically and emotionally, and it showed.
And I get. At 19 years old, with millions of dollars waived in your face, it'd be nearly impossible for anyone to say no. But the truth of the matter is that there are far more players that don't succeed, than those that do. And even more than that, more times than not, the dollars stand to grow, rather than lessen with a little more experience and maturity.
Really, I thought about this because of two players in this year's draft: former Miner Arnett Moultrie, and former Memphis Tiger Will Barton. Both players are extremely talented, but in my own opinion, both could've benefited from a little extra time in the collegiate ranks.
As we all know, Moultrie wasn't very fond of Tim Floyd's idea of staying till he graduated. In fact, Moultrie even considered leaving UTEP for the NBA after his sophomore year. Really??? After finding out his draft stock wasn't exactly "high", Moultrie bolted for Mississippi State.
Per transfer rules, he had to sit out a year, and wound up playing his junior season with the Bulldogs this past year. And, after filling out to a solid 230lbs, Moultrie had a good year, leading the Mississippi State in both points (15.8), and rebounds (10.6).
My question is though, was that what was best for him? Or would two years under Floyd and former NBA big man Greg Foster have served him well? I tend to think it was the latter. As a sophomore, he averaged nearly 10 points and 7 boards for the Miners, and in my opinion, would've done much better than his junior year at MSU, had he stayed the course at UTEP.
Of course, Moultrie was drafted 27th by the Miami Heat, and was immediately traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. While that's all fine and dandy, he may very well have been able to be a solid lottery pick with a little better preparation. He certainly had the tools to be.
And then there's Will Barton. The star G for Memphis averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds in his sophomore year for the Tigers, but possibly could've used another year to get ready for the stage that is the NBA. There's no questioning his ability, but consistency in shooting and ball handling, as well as his size (a little thin framed), were likely reasons the C-USA player of the year fell to being the 40th pick in this year's draft.
So again, I get it. Financially, you have to do what's best for yourself and your family. But, what's really "best"? Is it taking the possible late first round/early second round money now, or is it getting yourself prepared for the next level, and maximizing your stock and potential cashout later?
And, there are certainly exceptions to the rule. Not only are there all star players that are ready for such a jump both on and off the court (Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Derrick Rose), but there are also guys like former Butler G/F Gordon Hayward.
Two years ago, after leading his Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship game, the sophomore's draft stock blew through the roof, and likely wasn't going to rise any higher, even with that added experience. So, he bolted. He was the 9th pick in the 2010 draft, and got that lottery money that so many players hope to get, but more often than not, don't.
It's tough situation to be in. But many times, these players that decide to bolt early, struggle to get accustomed to the pro game, and usually find themselves floating around the D-League and Euro leagues, if any league, for the majority of their short careers.
The money is certainly enticing, and even I, that am sitting here talking about these players making poor decisions, don't know that I could resist the temptation. But, there's no doubt that the argument can be made that so many players would undoubtedly benefit from that extra year or two playing at the college level. Who knows, maybe the NBA had it all right to begin with.