It's time "One and Done" is done for good!by J.W. Miller on 02/12/18
I’m here to announce that after much consideration, I am officially launching a campaign to get rid of the “one and done” rule in college basketball. I’m not leaving college basketball fans with a smoldering implosion, I am offering a solution that makes so much sense the NBA and players association, who made the ruling in the first place, will never go for it. But first, here’s the background for this declaration:
Kentucky Coach John Calipari was the first college head coach to make his program a turnstile to the NBA, and who could argue? In Cal’s eight years in Big Blue Nation, his Wildcats have been to four Final Fours, barely missed two others and won the NCAA title in 2012. Then college basketball’s altar boy, Mike Krzyzewski,saw the hardware in Lexington and got in on the action. His recruiting classes at Duke started to out-Cal Calipari, and he even won his own title with freshman in 2015. The term "one and done" came to mean the NCAA hoops powers needed to lease one-year players, even though the players might only be on campus about nine months.
But lately, it seems that too much of a good thing is not so good. Kentucky is finding out this season that you can’t win with a lineup consisting primarily of freshmen. The Wildcats, featuring the No. 2 ranked freshman class of 2017, have uncharacteristically lost half of their last ten games and three in a row. But even when you have a senior running the show, as Duke has with point guard Grayson Allen, the results are not much better if the bulk of the cast is barely old enough to vote. Last week, Duke, with its No. 1 ranked freshman class, lost for the third time in four games and dropped a full four games behind top-ranked Virginia in the ACC.
"We've got to figure out something," said star freshman Marvin Bagley III, the top-ranked recruit in Duke's class. Calipari has repeatedly called his six freshmen and two sophomores the youngest team ini college basketball history as a reason for their inconsistency. But if you listen to Cal lately, he seems to realize something is wrong. "It seems like every young team in the country is struggling," Cal said last week. "The veteran teams are the ones that are doing well. We're all trying to do the same thing ... the kids are trying but it's not easy." Sure enough, a glance at the Associated Press rankings shows the top six or eight teams are dominated by the college equivalent of Social Security.
To add ammunition to the discussion, I saw an online poll Sunday titled: “Is Markelle Fultz a bust?” You may recall that after playing one season at the University of Washington, Fultz declared for the 2017 NBA draft and became the No. 1 selection, by the Philadelphia 76ers. But after four games on the active roster, Fultz injured a shoulder and hasn’t played a minute since. Now, as he recovers, the vultures are circling, claiming he wasn’t a very good shooter and the Sixers have tried to change his shot and maybe he wasn’t really ready for the big time, yadda, yadda, yadda.
If it’s not clear to you by now, it is to me that the NBA and its players association need to tear up the rule and retrench. And I have just the solution. First, allow any high school player to be eligible for the NBA Draft, but with conditions to prevent chaos. Under the plan, any high school player may declare for the draft and may be invited to participate in the NBA pre-draft tryouts. He would be prohibited from signing with an agent, to protect his college eligibility in case he is not drafted. If a player who applied is not invited to the tryouts, his NBA application is dismissed and he is eligible to be signed by a college.
On draft day, an NBA team could draft a high school player but it must be in the first round. The current practice of guaranteeing all first-round contracts would continue, and under the plan, a guaranteed contract of not less than three years would be extended to any high school player selected. This puts the onus on the NBA teams to make a commitment to the young players, although they may be sent to the G-League for development. If a team decides in the first three years the player is not what they thought, the player could be traded or cut, but the player still gets paid.
Any high school player who is invited to the pre-draft tryouts but is not drafted can sign with a college but would not be eligible for the NBA draft until three seasons have passed since his high school graduation, like the current MLB draft. In return, the college would guarantee the recruit a scholarship until he graduates, however long that might take. This plan does not prevent the young player from exercising overseas options if he is not drafted or signs with a college, which is the case now. But, unlike the current system, a player going overseas out of high school would not be NBA-eligible for three years. The three year wait is not unlike the NFL and MLB systems, so why wouldn’t the NBA embrace the same plan?
Hopefully, good sense will prevail and more high school stars will realize that, while the NBA does not deem them ready to play against men right away, three years of college ball would give them a better opportunity to prepare. This plan would open the draft to the almost-certain stars and then improve the draft pool with more experienced players down the line. The plan also would improve college basketball with the continuity of more players staying in school longer. Most importantly, it would protect the college signee by giving him three years to prepare for his NBA aspirations and guaranteeing him an education. And isn’t that what college is supposed to be about?