Pop quiz: Who was the last player to finish his senior year in college and then get drafted in the top five? If you guessed Duke’s Shelden Williams, then you’re right! Williams was the last player to play in college for four years and go top five in the draft. That was in 2006. Before that, you’d have to go all the way back to the 2000 draft when Kenyon Martin graduated from Cincinnati and then became the number one overall pick.
It wasn’t that long ago when staying in college for four years was the norm; now it’s a surprise if a freshman decides to stay for his sophomore year.
What started this trend of skipping college for the NBA? The '90s produced hall-of-famers like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant who declared for the NBA straight of high school. But for every Tracy McGrady and LeBron James there has been a Johnathan Bender and DaSanga Diop thrown in the mix.
It really is no secret that the top NCAA players will most likely not stay in college for an entire four years. Take a look at least years’ number one pick, Andrew Wiggins. At no point in his year at Kansas did anyone think that he would stay a second year.
The plan is the same for most of these top recruits: get a scholarship, play in college for a year, and go to the NBA.
It’s really kind of poetic. They come into our little college town like some kind of Gods, entertain us for a year, and leave for the big leagues once they’re done, leaving their legacy for future generations to talk about. It’s almost like an old Greek myth.
The fact that they’re here for just one year is perfect for their legacy. We don’t have time to fall out of love with them. We wait and wait for their first games, and the honeymoon period lasts for the entire year. Did we really ever hate Wiggins or gain dislike for him? Had he been here for four years, we would have found something to not like. I know it’s not his lifelong goal to be loved in Lawrence, but Wiggins didn’t tarnish his KU legacy last year.
Sure, we wish him and Joel would have stayed another year (or 3), but we can at least be grateful for the year that they were Jayhawks. Just for fun, let’s imagine what KU’s lineup would look like next year if one-done-ing wasn’t allowed.
PG, screw it, we can put Frank Mason here for now. You guys can decide who to start in the comments. Then you have Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Cliff Alexander and Joel Embiid rounding of the starting lineup. Throw in a bench of Selden, Oubre, and Perry Ellis, you’ve get a heck of a squad.
The same thing can be done with Kentucky, Indiana etc. Imagine a world where DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, John Wall, MKG and a healthy Nerlens were all on the same team. The NCAA would be a lot more entertaining.
Not only is the talent there, but add a couple of years working under the same system, with the same players, you have a team that becomes a family. Wiggins and Embiid got along last year, but you can’t compare it to the chemistry the team would have had had they played together for four years.
That’s one of the things that I thought made Bill Self and Kansas successful a few years ago. Aside from McLemore, KU didn’t really have any top prospect one-and-done’s (Sorry, Xavier). Bill Self’s team in 2011 was a team filled with returning players in a familiar system.
The 2011-12 teams’ top player was Thomas Robinson, a guy who barely touched the floor during his freshman year. The 2012-13 team was the same. It was led by guys who played together for a while and guys who you really wouldn’t call "stars". It was just a matter of Withey, Releford, Young and Johnson being familiar with each other, and then throwing in the youngster Ben McLemore. That was a good example of a team. Quite frankly, it was a little more satisfying to watch a group of guys who grew together and stayed together win, as opposed to just a group of random guys teaming up for one year.
Can we really blame these kids though? Their concern isn’t to entertain us for four years. Their number one goal is to make it to the NBA and get paid. Why wait four years in college and risk an injury? We all know what happened to Nerlens Noel a couple of years ago, and he was lucky that didn’t go down worse than it did. But that’s my point. Take Marcus Smart for example. He had a great 2012-13 season and he raised his stock to an all-time high. Had he declared for the draft after his freshman year, he would have most likely been the #1 overall pick that year.
Instead he decided to stun the NCAA world and stay for his sophomore year. It’s not like he had a bad year or totally burned out, but his sophomore year showed his weakness’ (and he learned how to flop!) and his stock fell. It didn’t help that he was now in the same draft class as two of the most hyped rookies since the 2003 draft.
As much as we want the top college prospects to stay in college for a few years, it’s most likely not going to happen. The MLB has an interesting draft process. The player can choose to either declare for the draft after high school, or wait until their junior year to be eligible again. This wouldn’t work in the NBA because they would just go back to declaring straight out of high school again. The NFL has a good system of requiring their players to be out of high school for at least three years before they can declare.
What do you guys think: are one-and-done players good for the NCAA? Will there be any changes in the future to fix it? And which NCAA team would have the best team if players were forced to stay until graduation?