DECKER: Age Restriction Doesn't Seem Right

There's at least one thing we've learned after the first year of the NBA-mandated one-year waiting period for high school phenoms to bolt for the pro ranks...

There's at least one thing we've learned after the first year of the NBA-mandated one-year waiting period for high school phenoms to bolt for the pro ranks.

College freshmen aren't any more patient than high school seniors.

As the deadline for declaring for the draft came and went Sunday, a plethora of 19-year-olds threw their hats into the NBA ring, all with visions of hearing commissioner David Stern call their names as they walked across the stage to shake his hand and collect their millions as lottery picks.

While the most oft-discussed college-turned-NBA-rookies-to-be are Texas' Kevin Durant and Ohio State's Greg Oden, they aren't the only ones who've declared. You can add the Georgia Tech duo of Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton, Ohio State's pair of Mike Conley and Daequan Cook, North Carolina's Brandan Wright and Washington's Spencer Hawes to the list of players who appear to be one-and-done.

Oden and Durant are the obvious No. 1 and No. 2 picks, respectively, in the June draft, but the status of the others is more up in the air. Wright, Conley and Hawes are considered likely lottery selections according to ESPN.com, while Young, Crittenton and Cook have lottery-caliber skills but enough questions that could drop them into the late first round.

With the exception of Oden and Durant, all of the others remain raw enough that it's hard to imagine them making a huge contribution as NBA rookies. Wright and Young are special athletes who are far from finished products. Conley and Crittenton are talented point guards who could stand to add some weight to their slender frames, and Cook is an explosive scorer who didn't have a chance to dazzle while stuck in the shadow of Oden.

With all of that said, should everyone other than Oden and Durant be returning to school? Not a chance.

I don't fault any or all of them for wanting to go to the NBA, whether they're ready or not. If someone is willing to pay you millions for your basketball abilities – whether it's unmistaken but unrefined or primed and polished – it would be foolish to turn your back on a lifetime of financial security.

While some would argue the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament or to grow and mature in college is an invaluable opportunity, it hardly enough compensation for a player who is hit with a career-threatening – and draft busting – injury. It didn't happen this year, but it will happen at some point down the road.

All this brings me to something I've come to wonder about the NBA's age restriction…

What was the point?

Players are every bit as anxious to get to the NBA, whether they're 18 or 19. When they do leave, it still leaves college programs scrambling to try to fill their scholarship slots at the last minute. And, finally, the players aren't necessarily any more ready to be immediate impact players on the professional level.

While the first year of the age restriction didn't impact the Hoosier roster last season, it will this fall. The arrival of Scout.com's second-ranked player in the 2007 class, Eric Gordon, has IU fans thinking big. Sure, it's nice to get a player of his caliber in an IU uniform, someone who will team with D.J. White to make the Hoosiers a legitimate Big Ten title contender and a potential Final Four team.

But is it fair to Gordon that he couldn't choose to go straight to the NBA if he was so inclined? I'm not so sure…

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