If first-year NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s Players Association ultimately agree on a new “two-and-done” rule, there actually will be some contented college freshmen and sophomore stars.
So says Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who has observed emotional news conferences in which lottery picks such as Xavier Henry, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have made it perfectly clear how much they loved their brief stays in Lawrence.
“I will say this, and I bet you could say this about Jabari (Parker, Duke) also, although I don’t know his situation personally, but if the rule was two years, you would have two kids at Kansas that would be happy — Wiggins and Embiid,” Self said last week on Mike and Ike’s CBS radio show in Philadelphia.
“The way it’s set up, they had to leave. It was the right decision for them the way it’s set up. But they would not have been disappointed one bit if they had to come back, because I think there’s a natural maturation process that needs to take place. You can’t force feed. Both those guys would have benefited tremendously from another year in college.”
But ... “You could also make the case both will benefit tremendously by playing in the pros at an accelerated rate,” Self quickly added. “But will they be more prepared to live that life by maybe being a year older? That’s the Catch-22. I think in most circumstances it probably would benefit them (staying two years).”
NBA general managers have expressed concern that one-and-done players — who are expected to be immediate NBA franchise players — enter the league having never had a leadership role on a college team.
It could be awhile before something is done about that. Players and owners can opt out of the current collective-bargaining agreement after the 2016-17 season.
“I think the rare ones ... we’ve all chased that American dream. To me, to put a limit on somebody as talented as one of the all-time greats, it would be very difficult to put those limits on him based on what he could potentially do for his family coming out of high school,” Self said. He conceded it would be a shame to make somebody as talented as, say, LeBron James, have to play two years in college before reaping NBA riches.
Silver stresses that a youngster still could go overseas or enter the NBA Developmental League if he wanted to start earning a paycheck rather than attend college two years.
Self wishes it’d be possible for a group of NBA execs or scouts or former players to study the high school talent each year and allow exceptions if a player is obviously good enough to head straight to the league.
“I have a hard time saying if you have LeBron out there the kid couldn’t leave out of high school. I think it would be sad to have LeBron have to stay two years in college,” Self said on Philly radio. “There’s probably no way to do this, but I wish there could be a committee in place to evaluate high school kids. Of course there would be maybe one or two a year qualified to make the jump. After that, the kids need to stay in two years.
“I think that (committee decision) would be best for everybody,” he added. “It gives kids an opportunity to leave who can leave. It would eliminate bad decisions. On the flip side, kids would have the opportunity to stay in college two years and not make a mockery possibly out of the academic system, so I think it would make the best of all worlds. I think there’s a good chance it will go to two years.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert has said the one-and-done rule “makes a travesty of the whole notion of student as an athlete. It simply creates the wrong type of environment for us (colleges).”
To be eligible as a freshman, a basketball player must be eligible for fall semester. A one-and-done conceivably could refuse to attend class second semester and remain eligible that one season.
Self has been able to prevent that from happening at KU by telling players they must leave KU in good academic standing or they are not welcome to attend any team functions or reunions in the future.
KU’s APR has been perfect for seven straight years now, meaning the one-and-dones have been able to take care of academic business before leaving to work out with personal trainers after the season.
“One-and-done, the only way it makes a mockery of the educational system is if a student goes to college and is there one year, he passes six hours first semester, none second semester, is eligible the whole year and helps the team win,” Self said. “That’s a mockery of the educational system. Fortunately that hasn’t happened at all. The one-and-dones have been good for our sport.
“Was (Kevin) Durant good for our sport? Was (Derrick) Rose good for our sport? I think the best thing is kids go when they are ready (which the committee could decide).”
Devil’s advocate would say members of the NBA’s committee might have selfish interests at stake. Teams with the top picks might push for getting some good, but not can’t-miss high school seniors, eligible for the draft.
“Baseball has a minor-league system to prepare guys,” Self said. “In college baseball, a player who does not sign out of high school must stay in college three seasons. With football, 18-year-olds are not ready to go physically. The NFL is a totally different animal in that regard.”
Players who are three years removed from high school can enter the NFL Draft.
“Basketball is one sport a guy could be gifted enough physically to experience success. I wish every kid would have to stay three and all that. In the big scheme of things, it’s looking at it with selfish eyes. Families have sacrificed so much. By staying, they risk the opportunity. That doesn’t seem fair, either,” Self said.