By WILL WILLCOXSON
In a dream world, our favorite college basketball stars would keep their talents at our schools as long as possible. But in today’s world of college sports, the majority of the great players break for the opportunity to shine in the NBA.
The current rule set by the National College Players Association requires prospects to be 19 years old and a year removed from high school.
A few popular ideas have been proposed to counter that rule.
One is the “MLB rule.” Players get to decide in high school whether they want to go directly into the pros or take up to three years of college eligibility.
Another idea, dubbed the “Bill Gates theory,” is that a player shouldn’t be forced to go to school if he can already earn millions.
The biggest flaw in those propositions is giving 18 year olds the power to decide their future. Young adults don’t necessarily have a track record for being the best decision makers.
That leaves us to consider what appears to be the most popular suggestion of all: extending the college requirement from one year to three or four years.
However, college basketball still wouldn’t improve if this rule were enacted.
We would have to pay the players. The NCPA found in a 2011 study, “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport,” that 80 percent of all college basketball scholarships leave players below the federal poverty level.
If these young adults were forced to stay in college for three or four years, they would almost certainly be tempted to play out their eligibility overseas, where they could earn a decent income at the same time.
Hypothetically, if the two- to three-year rule and a college salary were added to the mix, there would be lots of potential for restoring college hoops to its former glory.
With the absence of the dreaded “one and done,” players would have years to elevate their respective programs as opposed to one year playing, a quick goodbye press conference and a coach stuck trying rebuild a team.
It would allow NBA scouts more time to analyze prospects and essentially filter out the lottery picks.
College basketball would be less likely ruled by 10 elite programs taking all the top prospects. Those schools could keep their top players longer, and new prospects could join other schools for more playing time.
Aside from the risk of injury, the biggest issue is the time taken off a prospect’s five-year learning curve. Players would spend time focusing on school instead of trying to please a NBA staff.
The only way to turn college hoops into a basketball mecca is to keep the stars in class a little bit longer.