As a fan of the college game, I have to admit my initial response to the NBA age restriction rule was one of selfish delight. I originally thought -- this is it – exactly what I’ve waited for; the nation’s top talent could no longer skip college. As a college hoops fan that was cause for immediate celebration.
Finally, the crème de le crème would end up in a college uniform for at least one year. 2006 prodigies Kevin Durant, Greg Oden (who always said he would go to college), Brandan Wright, and Darrell Arthur, to name a few, are guaranteed to don a college uni for at least a single season.
But then a warning light went off in my head. Suddenly my enchantment was abruptly halted by thoughts of our young stars spending a tour of duty in places like Huntsville or Fayetteville or even Oak Hill Academy instead of on campuses across the country. The general consensus is Prep Schools and the NBDL could be the beneficiaries of this new rule. It occurred to me that the whole idea of an age restriction could backfire.
The ramifications of these limitations remain to be seen but how will it affect recruiting? The answers vary on this one depending on who you ask across the country.
Players like Seattle Prep star Spencer Hawes appeared unfazed by the rule change.
“You’d like to have the opportunity to make the decision about what you’re going to do for yourself”, said the 2006 stud. “But you know that’s how it worked out. I’m not disappointed by it.”
The talented Hawes told Phog.net he was always headed for college; possibly it was foresight or probably he truly wants the college experience. Imagine that.
“It didn’t change it at all. Our philosophy has always been to recruit the best players possible”, said Self.
But what about the players who were pondering a possible NBA defection before this rule was instituted? Most of these players, fair or unfair, now carry the label “one-and-done”.
“We still have to recruit the best players we can” Self continued. “Yes, its possible the best players could go to school for only a year, but there are no guarantees of a one-and-done”, Self stated. “But hey, a guy like Julian Wright could leave early too. There are a lot of factors, you just don’t know”.
So, to recruit them or not to recruit them -- that is the question, and it’s a dilemma that will now plague coaches. Or will it?
Realistically, NBA-caliber players are the ones programs covet; the ones who will take the program to the next level. Tough to find a recent NCAA champion whose roster failed to boast multiple future draft picks. Times have changed. In the 21st century we’re more likely to see teams as stockpiled as the last 2 national champions; Carolina produced 4 first-round picks while the 2004 Connecticut team featured the NBA’s Rookie of the Year (Emeka Okafor) and Sixth Man of the Year (Ben Gordon), not to mention the fact that Charlie Villanueva was a 2005 lottery pick! Try to convince me that a coach wouldn’t recruit these types of players because they might only be around for a year. Think Ohio State’s Thad Matta is losing sleep at night because Greg Oden might only be around for a year? If you can get the best player in the country in his class – you take him. It’s that simple. There’s no quandary in my mind.
Now that doesn’t mean all schools will proceed with reckless abandon, at some level programs do have to proceed with caution. Coaches insist too many premature departures will decimate a program in the long run.
“We won’t sign a whole bunch because you won’t necessarily win consistently over time this way”, Self affirmed.
That being said Self, like most coaches, is willing to take his chances.