GARY WASHBURN | ON BASKETBALL
Gregory Payan/Associated Press
The white elephant in the room, as we enjoy a plethora of college basketball games as teams such as Boston College compete to reach the NCAA Tournament, is that scandal and controversy floods and taints the college sport.
An FBI investigation has implicated several college coaches and assistant coaches of allegedly offering college recruits money and other benefits to attend their schools. Meanwhile, the college game is being diluted of talent because of the one-and-done rule that mandates players attend college at least one year before entering the NBA Draft.
The NBA also has an issue with the rule because many one-and-dones haven’t been as successful as projected while the league has resorted to baby-sitting these players or sticking them in the unpredictable G-League, hoping for development.
The NBA would like to devise a plan to allow man-child players who choose to attend college, such as Zion Williamson — who signed with Duke — to stay more than one year.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged the one-and-done rule has become ineffective.
So what should the NBA do if it decides to go back to the original “everybody is welcome” rule?
The NBA should allow high school prospects to enter the draft but reach an agreement with the NCAA that if those prospects are not drafted they are eligible for college. Secondly, prospects who did not enter the draft out of high school should remain in college for a minimum of two seasons, making the NCAA happy, increasing the talent base, and enhancing the college game and NCAA Tournament.
College coaches fully understand the players they pursue may bolt for the NBA at any time, even the ones who aren’t ready. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose team is preparing for the Ivy League tournament, heavily pursued Duke freshman Wendell Carter out of Atlanta, fully realizing the possibility of Carter remaining at Harvard for four years was remote.
“I think it’s complicated,” Amaker said Wednesday. “And I don’t think it’s something one level of basketball can solve alone or by itself. I think we’re starting to see the game or the sport of basketball really kind of combining forces and powers and ideas and thoughts to make the game better, not to just make our portion of it better. Can we make the sport a better sport for all?
“If we all can be stakeholders in that, I think we have a true partnership. I think we are hopeful that can come out of this.”
The NBA and NCAA have to work together and the NCAA can’t be run by some high-powered college coaches who make the draft process disadvantageous for the kids because it negatively affects recruiting.
It wasn’t until recently that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and others began accepting the fact that one-and-dones are essential to most major programs’ success.
The NCAA is no victim here. Players have just learned that it’s better to make millions sitting on an NBA bench in your first contract than to stay in college and be overexposed. The true victims are the 18- and 19-year-olds who are delusional in their professional potential, then bolt into the draft, only to be out of work in a few years.
The Celtics had such an example with James Young, who is now on a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Adam [Silver] is bailing [the NCAA] out because it’s more logical to do that . . . initiating these kids through guidance under the NBA format,’’ said former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, a staunch critic of the NCAA.
“The NBA is going to run basketball and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’d rather like it. It’s like the European model, really, and they are not paying these kids but the cream of the crop will get to the top. What you’ve just done now is eliminate the perpetual storm we have by the public and the NCAA fabricating that the kids playing college basketball are pure. They’re not pure.
“They’ve never been pure prior to Kevin Garnett leaving for the NBA in the 1990s. The NCAA has not played without sin since the inception of the NCAA. They’ve had scandal since 1920.”
The good news is that Silver is welcoming the NCAA to join forces and devise a creative solution for players to land softer in the NBA and become more successful. Perhaps the best solution is to have a two-tier system that allows some players to come directly out of high school but forces others to commit to two seasons or college.
The idea that the NBA could use the G-League to develop talent sounds good but the G-League, at its current state, is hardly an avenue to improve. How many young players go down there, put up mammoth numbers, only to find themselves on an NBA bench afterward?
The issue is there isn’t enough pure talent in the G-League for players to truly improve and there isn’t enough financial incentive for players to skip college and go directly to the G-League, which is a bad idea, anyway. So the best solution is for the NBA to spearhead the chance with help from the NBA Players Association.
Allow high schoolers to enter the draft, and mandate two seasons of college for undrafted high school players. It won’t be easy to implement but nothing is ever easy when it comes to college athletics. It never has been, but it has to be more transparent than it is now.
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