In 2008, Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley became one of the best classes in NBA Draft history when the quartet were all drafted in the top five of that years NBA Draft. The year before that, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were taken 1-2 in the draft. In 2009, it was Tyreke Evans. In 2010, it was John Wall. You get where this is going. All of these players have one thing in common. They were forced to go to college for one year instead of being able to jump straight to the NBA out of high school. Unlike their childhood stars growing up, they had to attend a year of college before realizing their dream of playing in the NBA.
In 1995 Kevin Garnett, a lanky, built high school senior from Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois, bypassed high school and went straight to the NBA. A year later, another young man named Kobe Bryant too announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft out of high school. It doesn’t take a basketball whiz to know what happened next. Garnett and Bryant have combined for six NBA Championships and two MVP awards.
In 2005, the NBA and its player’s union began discussing the possibility of adding an age limit. The league agreed on a minimum age of 19, which would require most high school seniors to head off to college. The rule was implemented the next season, ushering in the One and Done Era in college basketball.
“All these people are trying to make this one-year rule my rule. When did it become my rule? I don’t even like it,” says Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari, and after this past week he should dislike it even more. Since the rule’s inception John Calipari has coached eleven players that fit the bill as “one and done.”
Yet this past week Calipari’s worst fear was realized. On a hustle play made by his newest star freshman Nerlens Noel, in a game that was all but in the books as a Kentucky loss, Noel landed awkwardly on his left knee, tearing his ACL. In 2012 Calipari was quoted as saying, “If it’s your son, if he had that kind of talent, you would make him stay in college four years? What if he got hurt?” Noel’s family need no longer worry about what if, as Noel will miss the rest of the season.
And isn’t this what the rule is all about? College basketball and the money grabbers at the NCAA get to exploit stars that should be in the NBA already for one year, filling Final Fours in NFL stadiums for the chance to see the latest crop of one and done athletes. It’s disgusting. And it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt this bad. Nerlens Noel was projected as the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft. Now what? And I know the argument.
“Well, he’ll still be a top five pick. Who cares if he needs surgery?” Tell that to Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first round of last years playoffs in a year that Chicago could have challenged for the NBA Title. He’s not even back on the court yet. Tell that to Robert Griffin III, who tore his ACL in the NFL playoffs this year for the Redskins. It’s just sad that such an amazing talent like Nerlens Noel will now wait two weeks for surgery, then rehab to be in shape in time for October practice when he shouldn’t have been playing the Florida Gators anyways.
If this isn’t a big red flag to the NBA then I don’t know what is. Noel as a commodity will be fine. He will still make a small fortune in his lifetime, playing the game he loves. But what about Noel, the human being? Noel, the player who was chasing down a turnover in a game in which Kentucky was out played and out hustled all night, wound up screaming in agony on the court. People like to criticize Calipari for his frequent use of stars like Noel and Anthony Davis before him. But criticize the NCAA. Criticize the NBA and its Collective Bargaining Agreement that didn’t change the rule in 2011 when it should have.
Criticize Mark Emmert and David Stern, who both have been outspoken against the rule. Last October Emmert said, “I dislike it enormously.” Then change it! Granted the NCAA has become the butt of many jokes lately, what with the bundling of the Miami investigation and the egregious way it stepped outside of its own rules to punish Penn State last year. What better way to save face than to end this rule. Make high school athletes choose between going to college for two years or bypassing it all together.
But don’t put it on John Calipari. Don’t put it on Rick Barnes, who had the first one and done player in Kevin Durant at Texas. Or Thad Matta who coached Greg Oden and Mike Conley. Coach K had Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers. Don’t blame them for doing their jobs. Blame Emmert and Stern for not doing theirs.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of these guys have been successful. Oden and Conley led the Buckeyes to the 2007 Championship game. Rose led Memphis there in 2008. And last year Kentucky won with a slew of one and done players. But look at Kyrie Irving. He missed over half the season at Duke, but still was the #1 pick in the 2011 Draft. Enes Kanter chose to go to Kentucky for a year out of Turkey, before the NCAA made him sit out all season due to eligibility issues. Think he regrets that?
Brandon Jennings decided to tell the NCAA and NBA to take their rule and shove it, bypassing college to play overseas for a year before being drafted 10th overall in 2009. How’s he doing? Well he’s averaged fifteen points or more since being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.
So please Mark Emmert get this one right. Please David Stern, take away this rule. The fans will still pour millions of dollars into the product every year. Why blame them? It’s their duty to love this sport and to follow your leagues. But please, for Nerlens Noel, make every high school seniors decision a little safer.