Kudos to Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self for coming down on the wise side on the issue of when basketball players should become eligible for the NBA Draft. Self, likely about to coach his first one-and-done player in Xavier Henry, could have kept his mouth shut on the issue, but as he’s known to do, he was asked a question and answered it.
He shared that he favors a system in which a player can opt to make himself eligible for the NBA Draft out of high school, but if he does not do so, must stay out of the draft for three years. In short, he favors the system that has worked so well for Major League Baseball.
As it stands now, high school basketball prodigies must pose as college students for a year before entering the NBA Draft.
“If someone wanted to make a mockery of our education system, they could with the one-and-done player,” Self said. “They could take six hours in the fall and not go to school in the spring, and the next thing you know they are still eligible to play the full year.”
So why won’t the NBA adopt such a system, which would have to be negotiated as part of a collective-bargaining agreement between the owners and players?
The knee-jerk reaction would be to say the players are against it, but that doesn’t really make sense. NBA veterans, who make up most of the union, should be in favor of delaying the entry of players who could steal their jobs. Sure, the select few high school players would come a year earlier, but adopting the system still would be a net gain for NBA veterans.
So what’s the holdup? When trying to determine the motivation for anything the NBA does, it usually pays to think marketing first. David Stern is considered history’s most ingenious commissioner of a professional sport because he understood the way to grow as a league was to market the league’s superstars.
Under the current system, the NCAA markets the next class of NBA stars, and it doesn’t cost Stern’s league a penny. It’s a completely one-sided deal that hinders the college game’s product by triggering high turnover and making a sham of the term student-athlete. The NBA gets a one-year head start on marketing stars and gets to make a more educated guess as to which players to hype.
College basketball coaches tend to know when to make an issue of something, and they tend to agree on major issues. Their voices can make things happen, but in this case, if stating a preference for the NBA changing the rule doesn’t bring about change, college coaches should band together and do something they never do: stick it to the NBA. How? By banning passes for all NBA scouts and selling their seats, which would raise more revenue for athletic departments and send the message that college basketball is more than a minor league for the NBA.
Meanwhile, as long as the rules allow for one-and-done athletes, Kansas might as well play the game. Look at it this way: KU has a better chance of winning its second national title in three years with Henry than without him. That chance grew slightly better with the news that Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks is staying in the NBA Draft.