Contrary to popular belief, it’s not KG, Kobe or LeBron‘s fault.
If you want to blame anybody, blame Carmelo.
Via my quick unofficial study, the rate of freshmen entering the NBA Draft and leaving college programs scrounging for talent has increased since the League enacted its age limit and one-year-removed-from-high-school rule following the ’05 Draft. But more than the League’s restrictions have impacted the few high schoolers who would’ve gone pro straight from the prep game, the concept of leaving after one year has grown more popular since ‘Melo made the one-and-done thing cool when he led Syracuse to a national title in ’03 and went on to be a superstar in the NBA.
Commonly referred to as the “one-and-done rule,” the NBA’s age restriction has drawn criticism for a variety of reasons: Bob Knight said it makes a mockery of the “student” part of student-athlete; that players who didn’t want to go to college in the first place and plan to go pro after their freshman year don’t even really have to go to class in their second semester. Others have said it hurts the college product on the court more than helping it; that programs are caught in a tough spot deciding whether to recruit a high school superstar who will likely leave after one season, and are left with big holes to fill year after year.
No conference has been hurt more by freshmen departures recently than the Pac-10. DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love and Jerryd Bayless headline the list of one-and-done players, and not coincidentally, the Pac-10 has been pronounced D.O.A. this season even before conference play has begun.
Has the one-and-one trend really been that bad for the college game? Or would a general decline of NCAA talent occur whether the current rules existed or not?
The other day I was watching #6 West Virginia get all they could handle from unranked Seton Hall. Throughout the preseason I’d heard a lot of hype for the Mountaineers, so this was my first chance to see what they’re working with. And while WVU has talent, it didn’t seem like I was watching a Top-6 team and national title contender. As I e-mailed Dime’s Pat Cassidy: “WVU is good, but I’m thinking if they played that Rudy Gay/Marcus Williams UConn team from ’06 or the Brandon Roy/Brockman UW team from that year, they’d get smashed.” His reply: “It’s the downward slide of talent that we were talking about last week. That UConn team you mention would smash them and then a Top-15 team from five years before that would smash that UConn team. Pretty soon there will be very, very little difference between D1 and D3 and top high school teams.”
Maybe that’s going a little far, but the talent decline in college is noticeable. Obviously, the game has been losing top players every year since going pro early became popular, but has it been that much worse since ’05 and the one-and-done rule?
On the flip side, superstars like Kevin Durant, John Wall, Greg Oden and K-Love may only stick around briefly, but they do bring anticipation and excitement to the college game before they leave, and make themselves more marketable on their way to the NBA.
Overall, has the one-and-one rule been good for college ball and the NBA?