Apr 102002

College basketball isn’t what it once was.

Sure, March Madness is still exciting, but it no longer showcases the best college-aged players and if the current trend continues, college basketball will be nothing more than an intramural sport at most colleges.

No, the best place to see the top college-aged hoopsters is on the benches of your favorite NBA teams.

Check the Wizards’ bench, a team that is out of the playoffs for the 3,795th consecutive year, and you will find last year’s No.1 overall pick, Kwame Brown. Check the Bulls’ bench, a team that makes the Nuggets look like the Lakers, and you will find Tyson Chandler, the second pick overall.

High schoolers and underclassmen are jumping to the NBA at a record pace. Last season, four of the top eight players chosen, including the top two picks, were teenagers.

In the past, I’ve defended these guys. My argument was, “Hey, if they are good enough to be a first round draft pick coming out of high school or coming out early in college, why should they waste their time risking millions of dollars if they get hurt?”

But that was because I assumed that all the guys that came out early from college or jumped from high school to the pros became megastars right away. Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett are all players that went straight from preps to the NBA and I’m pretty sure they’re happy with their decisions.

Unfortunately, for every Garnett, there are 30 guys like Stromile Swift. He left LSU after his sophomore season, was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2000 draft, but is currently wasting away on the worst team in the NBA’s bench, the Memphis Grizzlies. For every Kobe, there are 100 guys like JaRon Rush. Who’s JaRon Rush you say? He’s a kid who left UCLA after his freshman year, wasn’t drafted and became an alcoholic.

The fact is, most of these guys who are All-World in high school or early in college, aren’t ready for the NBA. No matter what agents tell these guys, the majority of them would benefit from a couple of years in college to fine tune their games.

A lot of people think because some high schoolers’ bodies appear ready to play in the NBA, that they will automatically be great. What they don’t realize is that the NBA is one of the hardest leagues to make it in, and an even harder one to be a star in. There are only 12 players per team in the NBA, and only five of those can be on the floor at one time. Compare that to the 53 players on an NFL roster, or the infinite amount of players in baseball’s minor leagues. The percentages are against you from the start.

Despite these facts, college’s best young players and McDonald’s All-Americans keep jumping to the NBA.

Earlier this week, Indiana’s super sophomore Jared Jeffries announced that he would declare for the NBA draft, effectively ruining the Hoosiers’ chances of making it back to the Final Four next season.

Maryland’s stud sophomore Chris Wilcox is also considering declaring, which would put a damper on the Terps’ hopes of repeating.

Other star underclassmen like Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer and Kareem Rush (JaRon’s brother) all appear set on entering the NBA draft.

So if you are interested in following their progress, turn off the NCAA games and attend some NBA games next season. They’ll be the guys at the end of the bench.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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