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College or pros?
It's a no-brainer

Page 2

Page 2 quick quiz: Which of the following are high school players projected to be picked in the first round of Wednesday night's NBA draft and which are child actors in the upcoming "Harry Potter" movie?

    A. Daniel Radcliffe
    B. Tyson Chandler
    C. DeSagana Diop
    D. Chris Rankin
    E. Eddy Curry
    F. Sean Biggerstaff
    G. Matt Lewis
    H. Kwame Brown

(Answer:The projected first-rounders are B, C, E and H. The "Harry Potter" actors are A, D, F and G).

Kwame Brown
If he fails at the NBA, Kwame Brown should be able to pay for a college education himself.
There was a time when the top names in the NBA draft were as well-known as the women Shaquille O'Neal hasn't slept with.

No longer. Now, with the best players leaving college programs early, and others not even bothering with college in the first place, reading a mock draft list is a bit like scrolling through the entire credits for "Shrek" -- there are a whole lot of people you've never heard of. Six high school players made themselves eligible for the draft, four might be lottery picks, and Brown and Chandler could go Nos. 1 and 2 overall.

Not that any of this is new. Thanks to the success of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, most of us are comfortable with high school kids being in the draft now. In fact, just about the only people who aren't are some doddering columnists, college coaches, NBA executives and the usual NCAA brownshirts.

Go to college, those folk say. Stay in school, they urge. Educate yourself, they warn.

And it's easy to see why the coaches and administrators say these things. Because it's in their best interests for the players to go to college, not the players'.

  Why are 18-year-olds mature enough to learn how to drive a tank, fire a machine gun and kill a man a dozen different ways, but too young to earn $2 million a year playing basketball and meeting very friendly young women in hotel lobbies across the United States?  

The college coaches want to exploit these players for a couple of years so they can pad their records and their shoe contracts. The NCAA wants them to go to school and stay there, so it can build player-fan familiarity and stoke ratings to better squeeze more money from CBS for the Final Four. And the NBA doesn't want to pay these kids a couple million dollars a year while they develop their games and their bodies, when it can get them to do that for free in college.

Their concerns are about as false as a Minnesota Gopher's term paper.

After all, thousands of teens enter the military while they still have hangovers from their graduation keggers, and no one questions that. So why are 18-year-olds mature enough to learn how to drive a tank, fire a machine gun and kill a man a dozen different ways, but too young to earn $2 million a year playing basketball and meeting very friendly young women in hotel lobbies across the United States?

Further, baseball drafts hundreds of high school graduates every year, yanks them away from their families, ships them off to small towns around the country and pays them a pittance. Does anyone worry about them? No, nor should we.

In fact, the Oakland Athletics recently signed a high school junior, Jeremy Bonderman of Pasco, Wash., for $1.5 million.

Bonderman is an interesting case. His parents held him back a year when he was in fifth grade, because of learning difficulties from dyslexia. He had a driver's license when he was in ninth grade, turns 19 in October and made himself eligible for the draft by earning his GED. At the urging of his parents, he says he also plans to finish up classes after the season to get his diploma.

It's hard to see a victim. Bonderman didn't enjoy school and didn't want to go to college. He took the reasonable steps to become eligible for the draft, and because he did, he's $1.5 million richer than any of his classmates will be for many years.

About the only thing he'll miss out on is his senior prom, which he says he doesn't mind too much. "Not really. I'm sure there will be bad things said about what I'm doing, but so what? I'll live with that."

Don't get me wrong. I value a college education. But these kids still can go to college. Nothing says you have to go to college right after high school. The fact is, most of us go to college at the wrong time. We would have a far better idea about what classes to take and be much more eager to learn after we've been out in the real world for awhile.

Bonderman, Brown and Chandler can do that after they finish their pro careers. Further, by then they'll have enough money saved up so that when they enroll in college, they won't have to take out a student loan and wash dishes in the student union building cafeteria.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for

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