And the exodus continues.
Last Friday, North Carolina shooting guard Joseph Forte announced he would forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft, bringing the total number of underclassman leaving school early to 38. Can you believe that – 38! The list contains some pretty impressive names, too. In addition to Forte, Arizona’s Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas, and Seton Hall’s Eddie Griffin, are all college superstars ready to make the jump to the NBA.
But what about the other 34?
The list includes players that would benefit from one more year in school (Tayshaun Prince from Kentucky and Jason Richardson from Michigan State) and several players who have no business entering the NBA draft (Bobby Simmons from DePaul and Gerald Wallace from Alabama). The list also contains five high school players, a record.
Now I’m not one to complain about how players should stay in school, get an education, blah, blah, blah, but players pulling the trigger early is getting out of hand. Do these college players think the NBA won’t be around if they wait another year to come out? Do they hate college that much that they can’t stand another year of it?
And what about the high school players? They have no idea what they’re getting into! Can you imagine going from having your mommy waking you up for class to living on your own, paying your own bills and cooking your own meals?
Granted that the NBA isn’t exactly the real world, but these young players are still in for a shock. The change in the level of competition from college to the NBA is huge. Every night in the NBA you go up against world-class athletes, not some no-namer from NMSU.
Just look at the tribulations of some of the recent players who left school early. Point guard William Avery left Duke after his sophomore season without Coach K’s blessing and now rides the pine for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How about another Dukie, Corey Maggette? The only player to ever leave Duke after his freshman year now struggles to get minutes on the Los Angeles Clippers.
The best two examples of why not to jump from high school to the NBA are found on the Indiana Pacers: Jonathan Bender and Al Harrington. These two guys went straight to the pros and are now fixtures on the Pacer bench.
Of course there are those rare players that have the talent to skip college and still dominate the NBA. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett both left high school for the riches of the NBA and are now perhaps the best two players in the league.
But players like Kobe and KG are the exception, not the rule.
Leaving school early not only hurts the players, but the program they leave behind. The college game loses a little something every time an All-American goes pro too soon. Case in point: If Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse had stayed at North Carolina for their entire four years instead of leaving when they were sophomores, they would have played with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. Can you imagine those four players at UNC all on the same court? It could have been a team for the ages.
So, as much as it pains me to say this, congratulations Casey Jacobson at Stanford and Jason Williams at Duke. You guys have the right idea.
Stay in school, play some ball and have some fun. Because before you know it, your college days will be over, and you’ll be getting schooled in the NBA.