College hoops fans across the country are rejoicing this holiday season thanks to NBA Commissioner David Stern. Thanks to the wise decision to implement an age restriction college basketball is reaping the rewards. High school prospects must be 19 years old with one year removed from high school in order to be eligible for the NBA Draft. The days of jumping directly from a high school cap and gown to NBA riches are over.
As a result, Santa Claus could bypass stuffing the stockings at places like Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas, and Washington, to name a few. These coaches got their presents with big red bows back when the new rule was announced.
Let’s face it over the last few years we’ve succumbed to the idea that we wouldn’t see most of the top high school prospects compete at the collegiate level and it seemed to impact the quality of play on the hardwood.
“I really haven’t felt the excitement level of college basketball has dropped. The overall talent level has dropped so the pressure’s been on a lot of guys that wouldn’t have been playing ball ten years ago that are readily playing because guys are jumping earlier,” stated Kansas head coach Bill Self.
But the latest infusion of top-tiered players that has been lacking for a long time has seemed to reinvigorate the games where the name on the front of the jersey matters.
“I do think there is a renewed excitement. Even in the past the top four or five freshmen from an NBA potential standpoint have for the most part jumped,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self who recruited and signed Darrell Arthur. “You’re going to have that extra four to seven guys this year in the college game that haven’t been in there before which I think obviously adds interest.”
It has added interest and sparked the level of play on the court. How many great games have we seen already this season? And how many of those games featured impact freshmen? Think of the terrific first-year talent that played in two of the year’s best games so far – Kansas-Florida, and North Carolina-Ohio State. How about Kevin Durant at Texas making big shot after big shot and getting most of his feeds from fellow frosh D.J. Augustin? Plenty of outsiders will say college basketball doesn’t really begin until March. Not this year -- if you haven’t watched, you’ve sure missed some quality hoops.
I mean you can channel surf and watch Greg Oden hold down the interior for Ohio State, you can wow over Durant’s versatility for UT, salivate over Brandan Wright’s freakish length at UNC, and marvel at Spencer Hawes polished post moves out west. These young faces have the eyes of the hoop world again focused in the college ranks.
Fans aren’t the only ones singing Joy to the World though. How happy does this new rule make the coaches? Think of the number of head coaches who have spent so much time and effort recruiting a kid only to learn he’s opted for the NBA instead of spending any time at his university. At least for now, that won’t happen.
Sure, eventually someone will find a loophole in the rule or find a way to “skip” the college process and this has probably opened up the era of “one-and-done”. But for now, let’s just enjoy seeing an extremely talented class of freshmen compete at a high level.
Next year we’ll all be chanting to David Stern – “one more year, one more year!”