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Sports Authority

Wojciak: One-and-Done no more

| Friday, February 27, 2015

If you consider yourself a pro basketball fan, there is absolutely zero doubt you have heard the names Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard before.

And if your fandom goes slightly beyond average, you have probably heard of Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Amar’e Stoudemire and Monta Ellis as well. What do all of these players have in common? Each player was drafted into the NBA directly out of high school, and each went on to have a very successful career.

Until 2006, high school players were eligible to enter their names into the NBA draft immediately after their graduation. Then former NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a new rule saying a player must wait at least one year after their high school graduation to be eligible for selection. At the time, Stern stated the rule was put in place to “protect the players.”

But what exactly was Stern protecting them from?

While supporters of the rule claim high school players are not physically or mentally ready for the NBA immediately after graduation, they forget to point out how rare it was for a high school player to actually enter his name into the draft.

In the history of the NBA draft, only 42 players have been drafted right out of high school. Of those 42 players, two went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, three went on to win the Most Valuable Player Award, eight were selected to at least one All-Star Game and seven were selected to the All-NBA team at least once in their NBA careers.

Obviously not every player that entered the NBA right after high school has had a successful NBA career. Kwame Brown, DeSagana Diop and Jonathan Bender are notorious first-round busts that entered the NBA fresh out of high school hallways.

But considering just how rare it is for players to actually enter the draft right out of high school, this rule is really only targeting a select few.

The vast majority of high school basketball players who wish to pursue a career in basketball will attend college and continue their playing career. But those considered good enough by general managers and scouts from around the league should have the option to enter their name in the NBA draft.

Since the rule requiring a player to wait a year before entering the NBA draft has been in place, nearly every player considered good enough to play in the NBA right out of high school only went to college for one year, becoming eligible for the draft and immediately dropping out of school once the basketball season had ended.

During that one year of college, these players usually take the easiest classes available and put little to no effort into their schoolwork. And why should they, really, if they know they are going to drop out in just a few months?

During that same year, however, these players are not being paid the millions of dollars they would be if they were playing in the NBA.

These players also risk serious injury that could drastically change their basketball careers and even lives, something that might not have happened had they gone straight to the NBA and at least received a paycheck.

Look no further than Kyrie Irving, who was considered by many as the number-one NBA draft prospect right out of high school. Irving went to Duke and played in only nine games before suffering a severe ligament injury in his right toe that forced him to sit out the rest of the regular season.

Luckily for Irving, he was able to recover, and after foregoing the rest of his college eligibility, has had a promising start to his career in the NBA. Had Irving not been able to recover as easily, his entire future would have been altered for the worse.

Moving forward, I recommend the NBA enforce the same policy college baseball uses regarding players and their draft eligibility. In baseball, a player is eligible for the draft right out of high school, but if they choose to attend college, they are not eligible for the draft for another three years.

This rule would allow the select few who are actually good enough for the NBA right out of high school to not waste any time in starting their professional careers, while also maintaining the integrity of college basketball.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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