Playing for money… or not

Story by Jordan WIlliams, Sports Editor

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June 21, 2005. NBA and the National Basketball Players Association come to an agreement that marked the end of an era in the sport of basketball. The two parties agreed to move up the age for players to enter the NBA draft to 19 and have to be at least one year removed from high school.

Effects of this decision wouldn’t be fully understood until last year, when the “corrupt underbelly” of the NCAA was exposed to the world. What started out as a rule meant to produce better draft prospects turned into a way to further exploit young athletes who were seemingly left with no other option than to attend one year of college.

Now, almost thirteen years after this decision and with the weight of this choice now fully understood, the NBA is on the verge of rescinding this rule and once again opening its doors to high school students ready to make the jump. But with so much chatter from parties both for and against the rule one has to ask themselves, what is the right call?

There are those who say that college is a good stopping point for aspiring young pros as the experience allows them to mature mentally and physically, a point that is hard to argue. Some who even feel that if these young prospects spent more time in college they’d be more complete products by the time they hit the NBA, and there’s even proof to back this point up.

Players such as Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Damian Lillard and Steph Curry were all players who were removed from being the players they were today but after returning for their second, third or even fourth semesters of college hit the NBA floor ready to contribute to an NBA team. This list of players alone has produced 20 all-star selections, 15 all NBA team selections, 2 MVPs and 2 scoring champs in the form of both Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry. None of these players were considered franchise players when NBA scouts saw them play their first college game, and now it’s undeniable how great any of these single players are and how important those extra years at the college level meant in them becoming the players they are today.

Another side of the argument are those who say that if a player feels he is ready to go to the pros after he graduates, he should be allowed to declare for the NBA draft. There are multiple players in each draft, and while not fundamentally ready for the NBA, are more than physically ready for the NBA game.

For example, Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton, is a 7’1 250lb “behemoth,” according to sports commentator Bill Walton, and has been dominating most other college centers. He does this by simply being bigger, stronger and faster than the majority of the competition he is facing on a night-to-night basis. This lack of competition causes a player’s game to stagnate as there is no need to polish any of aspect of their game if they can dominate their competition as is.

For players such as these one year of college isn’t going to change much, sure they enter the NBA a bit more well-conditioned but even then most prospects require even more conditioning and training than they could ever receive on the college level and having to work with more individual skill coaches to gain the skills that are needed to compete at an NBA level. Going straight to the NBA to work with these trainers and professionals is the quickest way for these top high school players to start taking steps into the pros they’ve dedicated their lives to being.

There’s also the fact that we’re denying players their dream and making them go to college when most of them would rather go straight to the NBA. There, they can earn money, and most of the players need it to help their families. If you let these players have this choice back, then spots would open up in the college game for athletes who actually want to go to college to further their education.

Regardless of what camp you reside and what feelings you have about either side of this debate one thing is certain. It’s time to quit talking about these players as if they are only tools to be exploited for monetary gain. It’s time we quit making decisions for them and start letting them make their own. Like any other young adult in this country, they should have the right to decide their own fates regardless of how anyone else feels.

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Playing for money… or not