Kramer: The upside of one-and-dones


Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Three weeks after a record 14 college freshmen declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips criticized college basketball’s “one-and-done” culture in an ESPN article Tuesday.

There has been a growing trend of first-year players declaring for the draft through the last three seasons. Eight went pro in 2013. Nine went pro last year.

Phillips’ critiques were mainly directed at the NBA, which requires players to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school before entering the league. His argument that the now-10-year-old NBA rule should not dictate how NCAA basketball runs is a completely fair claim.

But Phillips also told ESPN universities should “do the right thing for our student-athletes.”

Although college has several important purposes, one of those is to help students get jobs and be successful when they leave the institution.

For most college students, the industry they are interested in requires tons of work in a classroom or laboratory. All that work goes toward gaining certain knowledge and then receiving a piece of paper that says they indeed have gained that knowledge.

Being a professional athlete does not require a college degree. Although the one-and-done system may undermine the educational purpose of college, it supports the careerist purpose.

Elite college basketball players do not need a piece of paper to make money. They have a genius that lies in their athletic ability and an organization in the NBA that does not require a traditional education. Some one-and-done players become NBA stars and no one questions their decisions, but the one-and-done system gets bashed when a student-athlete’s decision to leave school does not work out as ideally.

Although sometimes one-and-done players fall to the second round of the NBA Draft or don’t get drafted at all, most are picked in the first round, which gives them a guaranteed rookie contract.

That is why even a player like former UNLV star Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in 2013 who has been labeled a bust after only two years in the NBA, did not make a bad decision by leaving school after one season. It’s hard to say a guy who has made nearly $11 million in two years made a poor choice.

Even if a player like Bennett never develops into a star or even a starter, just being a bench player is fine from a financial standpoint. The average NBA salary is around $5 million, and the minimum salary is higher than $500,000. How many industries can provide that?

So I have a question for Phillips and any critics of student-athletes who bolt for the professional ranks after their freshman seasons.

Imagine you are a college undergraduate presented with the following offer: You get to do what you love and what you are good at with no other obligations. You can devote all your time to your desired craft. You have access to the best teachers of your craft in the world, as well as veterans in your field who can help guide you. Within a few years, you will earn more money than most college graduates will make in their lifetime.

Is it really fair to prevent student-athletes from having that opportunity after one season of college basketball?

The one-and-done machine can malfunction. Not everybody who leaves after one year of college ball succeeds in the NBA. But most one-and-done players become rich while pursuing their passion at the highest level. What could be more right for these student-athletes than that?

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Twitter: @Jesse_Kramer