Last week, Florida announced that Scottie Wibelkin, a 6-foot-2 junior point guard from Gainesville, Fla. would be doing something very few high school prospects do. Pending grades and the SAT, Wibelkin would be graduating from high school after his junior year and enrolling at Florida a year earlier than expected. Wibelkin was a 2011 recruit; now he's a 2010.
Wibelkin's addition won't be a game-changer for Florida. He's a good player, but he's not among ESPNU's top 100 recruits for 2011. The real story here is less about Wibelkin and more about this trend. In the future, will other players do this? Is entering college early the new hotness?
Of course, one player doesn't make a trend. But Wibelkin isn't the first hoops player to try this. Last year, Duke recruit Andre Dawkins -- more of an impact recruit than Wibelkin, to be sure -- did the same thing, enrolling at Duke a year earlier than either the Blue Devils or Dawkins had previously expected. Dawkins had an OK year at Duke. He started off very well before his minutes dwindled during the ACC regular season. But the point is that it's been done before, this early entry thing, and it'll be done again. Does that make it a viable strategy, one other players can emulate?
The strategy, in so far as it exists, makes sense. An extra year of high school basketball isn't going to markedly improve a prospect for the next level, so if a recruit can graduate early, get on campus a year earlier, and get his first couple of seasons of college hoops out of the way, he can get into the NBA earlier and become a slightly more intriguing prospect -- NBA teams love that extra year of youth, don't they? -- than he would have been before. It makes sense.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on whether this is something you think shouldn't happen in the first place) this isn't a strategy most players will be able to replicate. It's hard to graduate from high school in three years. It's hard to get ready for the SAT in time to take it early, and it's hard to get the grades in on time, and it's hard to focus on a high-level basketball career while doing both. Some recruits might be able to pull it off. Few will. More will stay for their senior years of high school even if they don't want to -- and if I were in high school, I'd want to stay for my senior year, basketball career or not. High school is fun. (OK, so high school is never as fun as people remember. High school was just OK. But that doesn't mean you want to miss your senior year.)
In other words, Wibelkin and Dawkins do not make a trend. Will more players do this? Yeah. Will it be enough to change college basketball? Probably not.