May 6, 2004
It's incredible to see so many high school kids are skipping college for the NBA draft. As I've said before, it seems like it's time to have an age limitation rule that keeps kids out of the NBA until they are 20. It also makes sense to consider a rule where kids have to declare their draft intentions a week or two after the Final Four.
Under the current system coaches are held hostage because they don't know whether their recruiting class will come to college or which kids will return to the campus instead of bolting early. All the enthusiasm and excitement that came down when Sebastian Telfair said he was going to Louisville or Al Jefferson committed to Arkansas, J. R. Smith at North Carolina and Shaun Livingston at Duke was nothing more than meaningless words.
|Sebastian Telfair may be a better pro if he spends time in college before going to the pros.|
I believe it is more than just the cash involved. I feel there is ego in this equation, and this could affect their lives long term. Still, some heed questionable advice and jump at the chance.
Did those players look at Ndudi Ebi in Minnesota, who barely got off the bench and would have been better off at Arizona with Lute Olson? What about Kendrick Perkins or Travis Outlaw? Yes, they went in the first round, but how many minutes did they play and how many points did they score? This didn't help their development.
You can't tell me that playing on the collegiate level, in game situations, wouldn't help more. Competition helps develop you and in the NBA, you don't have the same lengthy, intense workouts during the season because the 82-game schedule is so grueling.
Kids miss out on one of the greatest experiences they can have. College basketball is hurt, the NBA is hurt with less mature kids coming in. I feel David Stern, who has done so much to market his league, has the right idea in pushing for that 20-year age limitation.
Go ask Grant Hill, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliott and others who played college basketball and stayed in school for the duration of their career.
Those four magical years teach you more than just a jump shot. When we analyze players down the road, when they can't continue to play ball, what will they have in their life to fall back on? Will they want to go back to school? It is not easy to adjust to every day life after having everything done for them.
Oh well...we will see what happens long term because instant gratification and dollars aren't the only answer.
College basketball will still be special and competitive and Saint Louis will be rocking and rolling for the Final Four. It's sad to know we won't see a Livingston, a Telfair or a Josh Smith there in a collegiate uniform.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.