For the phenomenon of “one-and-done” (college basketball stars who leave school after one year), I have an idea.
First of all, the practice isn’t fair. A freshman who spent most of his life being a one-dimensional person, just playing basketball, neglecting studies, goes to a Division I school, helps them win a national title, and then enters the NBA draft. Such a player never went to college in order to go to college. He went to college in order to use the year as a type of “combine” for the pro scouts.
A “combine” is where football players gather in a stadium and go through strength tests, running tests, passing, receiving, etc.. They’re looked over by pro scouts in advance of the NFL draft.
College basketball has become a “combine” for elite, teenager basketball players. They show off their talent, get national attention, are chosen high in the NBA draft–and in the doing, they lead their college to an NCAA Division I title. When colleges go after this type of player, the scouts and coaches surely know that this teenager is lacking as a well-rounded person, often showing immaturity that leads to arrests or suspensions. TELL me the coaches know that a player like this is going to hang around for FOUR years–and not leave until he is handed a diploma!
Allen Iverson is one such case. Tell me anybody thought he would stay four years at one of the most academically renowned schools in the nation–Georgetown. Iverson was born to a teenager who was only 15 years old. The father left soon after Allen was born. Growing up in a city of 140,000 (Hampton, Virginia), he became a superb basketball player–though also had run-ins with the law, spending four months in jail for supposedly participating in a melee between whites and blacks at a bowling alley. (He was pardoned by Gov. Wilder.)
Iverson was given a full scholarship to prestigious Georgetown. He stayed only two seasons. His freshman year, Georgetown made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament; his sophomore year, the Elite 8. His sophomore year was 1995-96. Then he entered the NBA draft and was the top overall pick (chosen by Philadelphia). He was named Rookie of the Year in the NBA in what would have been his junior year in college. THAT is how good he was! But was it fair to other schools? Georgetown had a player who was using the college as a type of minor league for the pros. Was it fair to Iverson himself? He went to college as a one-dimensional person. Life was all about basketball. He got into trouble with the law. In the pros, now as a young man, he continued getting into trouble with the law. He was arrested for drug use and carrying a concealed weapon. In whatever cities he played, he would frequent casinos, becoming disorderly after drinking and spending too much. Several casinos banned him.
At the age of 37, he was broke and being divorced. At a court hearing, Iverson yelled at his soon-to-be-former wife, “I don’t even have enough money for a cheeseburger!”
Four years in college, under the mentorship of a good man like coach John Thompson might have done Iverson some good as a person, not just as a basketball player.
Carmelo Anthony was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a tough neighborhood in Baltimore.
He too obsessed over basketball, getting suspended for skipping classes in high school. With such an academic record, he was still recruited by Syracuse. In his freshman season, he led Syracuse to its first NCAA title. Melo promptly entered the NBA draft, chosen No. 3 overall by Denver. TELL me the people at Syracuse, when they recruited Melo, thought he was really going to stay four years!
During his NBA career, he has been arrested for drug use and for DUI.
This phenomenon of one-and-done (or two-and-done) occurs primarily with black players who grew up in poor families in big cities. The young men are godded up for playing basketball well. They’re recruited by the most successful basketball programs at the highest levels of competition. They play a year or two, helping their schools beat other schools that “do it right” (a school like Wisconsin with an exemplary graduation rate). Then when they jump ship for the NBA, they are still not mature, well-rounded individuals. They are one-dimensional, and the result is that they get into trouble with the law, using drugs, spending money recklessly.
Years ago, Joe Paterno remarked at a meeting of college football coaches that black kids from poor families were being taken advantage of by colleges that recruit them, KNOWING these young men are needing a lot more for their lives than just football. And he made this statement at a time when college players were NOT jumping early to the NFL. Today, they can, as in basketball.
Here is a way to fix the phenomenon. Or at least to make a college feel the pain for blatant unfairness to other schools and even for unfairness to the young men whom they mislead that being a one-dimensional person is profitable.
If a player jumps to the NBA before graduating from college, that college basketball program loses a scholarship. In other words, a player jumps to the NBA after one’s freshman year. That player would have been a scholarship player for three more years. The penalty is: The school loses three scholarships for its basketball program.
If a player jumps after one’s sophomore year, that means the player would have been playing under a scholarship for two more years. The school loses TWO scholarships for basketball.
It isn’t a cure-all. But the penalty may cause coaches to think more carefully about what to look for in a recruit, or even if getting one who is one-dimensional, to help the young fellow see life as requiring more to be a “success.”