The Kentucky press conference on Thursday made a mockery of college basketball.
Wildcat Godfather John Calipari and seven of his “student” athletes were seated before a horde of media to announce they were bypassing their final years of college to apply for the NBA draft.
Junior Willie Cauley-Stein, sophomores Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, and freshmen Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns are giving up their “dream” of a four-year education to attempt to play in the NBA.
While only three of the players are OADs (one and dones), Kentucky basically has become little more than a farm team for the NBA.
In three years don’t be surprised if Towns is the only one of “The Magnificent Seven” still in the league. The rest are applying to the NBA solely on “potential.” Most likely they’ll be coming to a near-empty D-League arena near you.
It’s time once and for all for college basketball and the NBA Players Association to revise the rules. My preference would be that players must attend college at least two years, just to give the impression they’re actually attending college to study, not just to eat, drink and sleep basketball as well as make millions of dollars for the schools that exploit them.
There are others who say let the players go to the NBA directly out of high school, but if they don’t they must stay in college for three years. If the high schoolers don’t make the grade in the NBA, that might “discourage” them into attending college.
Duke, this year’s national champion, rode the wings of four freshmen in the championship game against Wisconsin, a school that is more traditional in that nearly all of its players stay four years.
Calipari doesn’t apologize for his philosophy. He has opened his own McDonald’s chain, as nine players on his roster were Mickey D’s AAs. And even with seven departures, all he’ll do is load up on the top players who have not yet committed, as most of them were waiting to see what the Kentucky players were going to do. He’ll probably have another nine or 10 high school All-Americans who will overcome their lack of basic fundamentals and rely on their pure athleticism to lead the Wildcats deep into the tournament again next year.
The Kansas Jayhawks are finding out that OADs don’t automatically translate into success as they have made early exits from the Big Dance the last two years. Bill Self had two for the second year in a row, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander, and to me both are marginal pro prospects, unlike last year’s departures Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid (once he’s healthy). Oubre has the best chance if his pencil-thin body doesn’t get broke in half, while Alexander is going to be an NBA drifter. He’s too small to play inside and doesn’t have the ballhandling skills to play on the perimeter. He better hope he goes in the first round to get a guaranteed contract, or he could be going hungry.
There have been several cries (college insider Jay Bilas being one) that the college game is at its lowest point, despite all the attention and glamour of the Final Four. I can remember growing up watching the UCLA teams of the 1960s and 1970s with Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton and their exquisite execution. I can only imagine what the late John Wooden, who coached these teams, would think of the college game now. He’s probably rolling in his grave.