The freshman sensation era has begun due to the National Basketball Association’s ruling that a high school player must be one year removed from high school. As a result, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has already begun to impact both the collegiate level and the pros.
Last year’s NCAA player of the year was Kevin Durant, a dominating 6’9” slender swingman from Prince Georges, Maryland. Durant helped carry a talented Texas team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his first and only season playing collegiate basketball. Durant would have easily been a lottery pick in the 2006 draft, but instead he became the poster boy for the newest NBA trend. Durant averaged a conference leading 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game. The awards came pouring in; he was named the AP National Player of the Year, Naismith player of the year and was a first team All-American selection. After the accolades and a decent finish in the tournament, Durant’s next decision would be to consider would be to either pursue his degree or grab the excessive amount of cash that would be thrown his way.
Durant chose the cash and was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2007 draft. He signed a 60 million dollar shoe contract with Nike and is to receive $3.74 million in his first season in the NBA.
Also faced with the dilemma of pursuing a degree or heading to the NBA was Greg Oden, the number one overall pick of the 2007 draft. Oden led the Ohio State with 15.6 points per game and 9.6 rebounds all the way to the NCAA championship. Despite the Buckeyes loss, Oden would cash in. Along with an expensive
Nike shoe contract, Oden signed a three year $3 million-plus contract with Topps
Three of the top five players selected in the 2007 draft were one-year attendees of their respective universities. None of the top-ten players selected were college graduates. This is an unfortunate fact, because these athletes receive their college tuition for free. Student athletes are constantly labeled as only caring about their athletic careers, and the NBA jump after only a year of schooling may be all the proof that is needed.
This year’s freshmen fiasco includes college students O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon and Derrick Rose. All four freshmen are prospective lottery picks in the 2008 NBA draft. They will each face the dilemma of choosing to stay for more years of college or raking in big bucks off of their appeal.
Beasley is a 6’10” forward that is leading the NCAA in rebounds with 12.4 and is second in the nation in scoring. He is expected to win the player of the year award at the season’s end. Even before the end of the year, Beasley has undoubtedly heard from many NBA scouts that he would potentially be the number one overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Are these players so na’ve that they don’t understand they’re passing up a great opportunity to earn a college degree? Or are we as fans na’ve to the fact that many of these players are in need of the fast cash that awaits their NBA jump?
Afterall, instant-millionaire status is being handed to nineteen year olds.
Since the 1995 draft, where Kevin Garnett was drafted straight from high school, the NBA saw an increased number of high school applicants to its league. The amount of high school players that were drafted by teams was tremendous, but the amount of young players that could compete at NBA level was not quite as impressive.
David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, recently told Time magazine that the ruling has been very constructive and he hopes to push the age limit back to 20 when the ruling expires in 2011.
Essentially, what the commissioner is trying to do is give the NBA a better image. By restricting high school graduates from entry, most of the talented players will select to go to college. But even if the ruling is changed to two years of schooling, the NBA will begin to see a new trend: collegiate-sophomore draftees.
Regardless, the choice to receive millions of dollars and head into a superstar lifestyle over receiving an education may only be understood after four years of college.