One and Dumb

The 2008 NBA draft saw the usual parade of underclassmen go early. This year's first senior wasn't selected until pick 12, and he was from noted hoops hotbed Rider. Most of the names selected were familiar to basketball fans, thanks to the recent rule requiring all draft entrants to be at least one year out of high school.

The first three players chosen were freshmen, with seven total going in the lottery. Both of those things had never happened previously. While it may be good for NBA marketing that people have seen Derrick Rose and Kevin Love in the Final Four, it's not good for college basketball.

The creation of the one year rule was well intentioned. The NBA wanted a better developed crop of incoming talent and college basketball would benefit from not being perceived as a collection of less gifted players. Kids who were letting their egos or those around them push them into declaring for the draft too soon would be protected from going down the path of failures like Korleone Young or Leon Smith. No matter how noble you choose to believe the rule was, it's clearly created more trouble than it is worth.

The O.J. Mayo scandal at Southern Cal was the perfect example of problems with the one year rule, and it really couldn't have surprised anyone. Mayo had clearly intended to go directly from high school straight to the NBA prior to the rule change two years ago. Rather than a traditional recruiting process, he informed Southern Cal he was coming so he could maximize his exposure in a major media market. Why should anyone have expected him to consider the school's long term interest in staying off probation if he had the chance to get paid?

Ohio State saw Kosta Koufos go in the first round, but Thad Matta probably isn't too thrilled for him. Just like Greg Oden did, Koufos left Columbus without completing his academic work. That means the Buckeyes will take an APR hit from a "one and done" big man for the second consecutive season. Realistically though, what incentive did Koufos have to finish his work? Why should kids with similar talent to Mayo and Koufos in the future make that choice? If it was up to them, they'd be getting paid. How will it help programs to welcome a guy like that into their locker room for one year?

While none of the allegations in the Mayo case to this point have involved improper benefits being provided by Southern Cal, some coaches have expressed concerns about the one year rule's impact on honesty in their profession. Michigan State's Tom Izzo told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette last month that, "Everyone is feeling they have to get a player for a year and try to win big. We're in this profession where you're hired to be fired, too, and because of that, I think nationwide, cheating is getting worse." Izzo did not get specific about who he feels is cheating or how they're doing so, but for a coach of his stature to go public with those thoughts drives home how significant this problem can become.

The only place the one year rule can really be viewed as having been a success is for the NBA. It benefits when Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant is a star coming into the league from Texas as opposed to another high school kid with a big reputation. Even that part of the rule's effects may be going away, as Arizona signee Brandon Jennings has acknowledged that he's considering playing in Europe rather than enrolling in Tucson. If he's successful and others begin to make the same choice, the NBA may quickly find itself back where it started trying to fix the problem of underqualified talent jumping into the draft. Instead of drafting primarily high schoolers and Europeans, they'll be drafting high schoolers who were playing with Europeans.

In their perfect world, college basketball coaches would like what their baseball and football counterparts have. Players either go pro out of high school or spend three years on campus before becoming draft eligible again. That could open the door for more Christian Drejer situations, where a player walks away from his team during the season for a European payday. Unfortunately for basketball, the other sports don't have to contend with that so their rules work. For basketball the reality is that athletes have too many ways to get paid if they're good enough, and there's no way to turn back the clock. It's time to drop the one year rule and go back to finishing high school meaning NBA eligibility before more schools find themselves in the same position as Southern Cal.


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