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One and not done

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By Gerard Flanagan

In 2005, the NBA had a problem on its hands.
A steady stream of high school players were jumping into the NBA, only to flame out and become a bust. This was bad for the game. Players with potential were spoiling their chance at stardom and the league was losing talented players who just weren’t ready for the pro game.
David Stern, NBA commissioner at the time, advocated for a solution to the issue: Article X. This provision of the 2005 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement required all potential NBA draftees to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduation. This rule eventually became known as the “one-and-done” rule because many prospective NBA players stayed in college for only one season and then threw their name into the draft.
Before the rule, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were notable examples of players who skipped college, went straight to the pros and had (or are having, in James’ case) great success. However, for every LeBron or Kobe out there, there’s Leon Smith and Korleone Young, who simply went pro too early and never panned out.
After 12 years of the one-and-done rule, it’s time for a change. The one-and-done rule negatively affects college basketball, basketball players themselves and the fans that love the sport. Only the NBA truly benefits from this system as it receives a steady supply of talented athletes who have been evaluated for a full season before being drafted and who are also recognizable faces that can make the association money.
Almost any college basketball player who is projected to be a high draft pick doesn’t put much emphasis on their education. Sure, some will, but for the most part, those players feel forced to attend college and aren’t there to pursue an education. Just look at Ben Simmons, who was a one-and-done himself; Simmons failed to attain a 2.0 GPA and was benched for missing classes.
"[The one-and-done system] tarnishes what we're trying to do as coaches; it tarnishes the idea that kids are here to get an education," Colorado coach Tad Boyle says. "It just does. People know it.”
Education isn’t the only way the college game has been negatively affected. The one-and-done era results in high turnovers on college basketball rosters. College coaches must constantly overhaul their rosters. There’s simply no stability for college teams and that’s something college teams crave. It’s much more difficult to build a winning program if you must coach a whole new roster each year, make the player chemistry work and teach the system to them. It’s been done before, but overall, it limits the potential for many teams to reach their highest potential.
The one-and-done rule also makes college basketball less competitive; if players who attend college are required to stay for two (or even three) seasons, high school prospects will be more inclined to go elsewhere to find adequate playing time. Repealing the one-and-done rule would give college basketball a wider pool of talented players on the stage. More talent spread out equals better competition. Odds are most college players wouldn’t want to be stuck on the bench or get less playing time if other options were available.
Meanwhile, some college basketball players could indeed be ready for the NBA but are required to stay in college for a year and forced to pass up a chance to begin making a living. Players could also get hurt when they have no reason to be in college. Of course, a very small fraction of high school prospects would be affected by this.
The one-and-done system has devalued college basketball, basically relegating it to a farm-system for the NBA. That’s not good for the game. So what’s my solution to this? It’s simple. If a high school player feels they are ready for the NBA, they should have every right to go pro; that would allow a player to cash in on their talent. No player should be forced to college if they don’t want to, just like any non-player. However, if a player decides to go to college, or isn’t ready for the NBA, they should be required to stay in college for at least two years. That would allow them to develop and refine their talents and it would also give them more incentive to finish their degree.