One-and-done prospects have become all the rage in college basketball. Programs have bent over backward to attract these players for the prestige that comes with landing one.
Texas fans celebrated when big man Mohamed Bamba surprisingly selected the Longhorns. Point guard Trae Young was hailed as a savior of sorts; he was the highest-ranked prospect Oklahoma reeled in since Blake Griffin. Several coaches lean on these ready-made talents in lieu of player development.
But ultimately, Texas went out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma followed soon after. Really, Duke and Kentucky are the only teams that have consistently found national success while relying on one-and-done players.
Now, the Big East has put in a recommendation to abolish the one-and-done and replace it with a zero-or-two rule. Players would be allowed to enter the NBA out of high school. However, if they went to college, they’d have to stay at least two seasons.
For the sake of college basketball, the NCAA should pass this rule.
Young and Bamba were exciting stars. But ultimately, the superstars of the Big 12 this season were seasoned veterans on winning teams.
Kansas senior guard Devonte’ Graham captured Big 12 Player of the Year honors after leading the Jayhawks to a 14th straight Big 12 regular-season championship. Senior guards Keenan Evans of Texas Tech and Jevon Carter of West Virginia joined him on the first team. Young was there, too, but Kansas State junior Dean Wade rounded out the list. All four other first-team members were still playing in the second weekend.
In fact, nine of the 15 All-Big 12 honorees were seniors. Only two – Bamba and Young – were freshmen. None of the other four All-Big 12 honorees are expected to leave for the NBA.
One-and-dones have pushed many of these stars to the sideline. Young received more attention than Carter and Evans this season combined. The hype eventually played a part in crushing Oklahoma’s season.
The Big 12 has quickly become an elite college basketball conference. One-and-dones have played little role in the rise of the conference.
Kansas gets an NBA prospect every couple of years, but they are rarely the best player. Texas reels in elite prospects, but never competes for the conference. The consistently strong teams in the conference — West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State, to name a few — are built around player development. Texas Tech and TCU seem poised to continue that game plan.
Focusing so much on these freshmen makes college basketball an NBA sideshow. The players most discussed throughout the year — Deandre Ayton, Bamba and Young — are talked about in an NBA context. The former two only really saw college basketball as a mandatory stopover before becoming professionals.
Really, the biggest stars in the sport have always been upperclassmen. We all had four years to get to know Duke’s J.J. Redick and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. Fans saw players like Kansas forward Perry Ellis and Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield grow up and dominate the Big 12 for four years.
Hield went from being a skinny kid from the Bahamas to one of college basketball’s greatest shooters. LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor from laughingstock to the Elite Eight. Sherron Collins went from a tough situation to becoming a Kansas great. Building relationships and seeing players develop over multiple years is part of what makes the sport great.
At the same time, players who are ready to play right out of high school shouldn’t be inhibited. LSU forward Ben Simmons didn’t even pretend to attend classes. Washington guard Markelle Fultz happily won nine games. Both went on to be No. 1 overall draft picks. Their college tenures were massive wastes of time, for the sport and individuals.
The 0-or-2 rule helps bring the best of both worlds. Players who are ready to contribute right away can forego eligibility for the NBA. But if an individual goes to a school, the fans deserve an opportunity to watch him grow.
The 2017-18 crop of Big 12 superstars prove it — college basketball is better when players get multiple years in the sport. College basketball shouldn’t just be a minor league for the pros.
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