Nerlens Noel, the Freshman center for the Kentucky Wildcats, was about to get paid. Any time you turned on a UK basketball game, some analyst commented that Noel was likely going to be the NBA’s #1 draft pick next season. How much was he about to get paid? We don’t know for sure but we can make a good estimate. Last year’s #1 pick was also a freshman center from Kentucky. Anthony Davis makes 3,000,000.00 a year in salary from the New Orleans Hornets. It is estimated he will make another 1,500,000.00 in other income. That’s a lot of zeroes.
Now what will Noel get paid with teams worried about whether he will be 100% after rehabbing a torn ACL? It will likely be a lot less than he would have gotten a couple days ago. So this begs the question, where does college and professional basketball go from here? It is hard to imagine there won’t be some fallout after this.
This “one and done” arrangement the NBA has with college hoops was a train wreck waiting to happen from the start. It is a sham to begin with. The “official” reason the NBA adopted the “we will not draft players until they have been out of high school for a year” rule is they wanted to give these players “exposure to college”. Does anyone know what the minimum hours to stay eligible for a basketball season? Six hours. That’s two classes. And there is no rule that says they have to be tough classes.
So basically, high school stars who are good enough to play in the NBA have to do a year of college ball because the NCAA and the TV Networks were upset that they never got to show off Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard in the NCAA Tournament.
Did Kevin Durant playing one year with the Texas Longhorns make the NCAA Tournament better? Maybe a little. But was it necessary for Durant? Is he a better player for having played one year at Texas? Is a more intelligent person for having taken those two cupcake college courses? What he missed out on was another year of NBA money. He also lost another year to add to his career totals whatever those might end up being. Maybe that isn’t a huge deal for Durant because he will retire with a lot of both.
But how about Nerlens Noel?
We saw this happen in football this past season with Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina. Like Noel he tore up his knee in a college game. Does this mean we should let high school football players go to the NFL right out of high school? Of course not. But we also don’t let them go out after one year of college ball either. Football is a man’s game. Players need that bridge between high school and the pros to get bigger and stronger.
Basketball is a game where you can play before you are fully grown if you are good enough. Grown men are hitting you and hacking you, but they aren’t tackling you and driving you into the ground. Would Noel have blown a knee out in the NBA? Maybe so. But at least he would have been getting paid.
What are all the guys who are coming into college hoops next year thinking now? They already knew this was a possibility. But now they have seen it happen. Will this cause them to consider perhaps sitting out for a year rather than play college ball? That is ridiculous you say? Really? Because there has already been discussions about Jadaveon Clowney, next year’s sure fire #1 pick in the NFL Draft, sitting out at South Carolina rather than risk becoming like Lattimore.
There are cases where playing that one year in college worked out for the player. The Washington Wizards Brad Beal comes to mind. Taking the Florida Gators to the brink of the Final Four likely helped him move up to #3. But we are talking about a guy who still goes in the first round the year before anyway. He likely would be playing for a better team right now.
It is tine to call this travesty what it is. It is holding a very talented and potentially wealthy player hostage for a year so college basketball can cash in. The school cashes in. The coach cashes in. The TV networks cash in. Everybody cashes in while the player takes all the risk. How is this fair. Nerlens Noel’s family would sure like to know.