In the midst of all of this draft day hoopla, we have the hopes and dreams of countless collegiate athletes. They have toiled at their sport for years, and now they find out if they are going to be pursuing a career in pro sports. I guess that makes perfect sense for a college senior. It is a natural progression – go to school, play your sport while doing so, get a degree, go on to play your sport professionally, and fall back on the aforementioned degree if anything happens to the dream in the process.
Is it appropriate for a college freshman to enter the draft? And perhaps the bigger question is – should the professional sports leagues allow it in the first place?
The last time I looked, at least back in my days at university a couple of decades ago, the primary goal of post-secondary education was exactly that - education. Apparently, that concept is a little “old school” these days. Go to school for the sake of – going to school and getting a degree? Am I from another planet? Now, it is used as but a stepping stone to a pro career that the vast majority of athletes will never see anyway.
In today’s world, an 18 or 19 year-old freshman declares for the draft, being told by those around him that he is the “next big thing”, being wined and dined and having his ego stroked. At that moment, education might be the last thing on his mind. Maybe it is all about getting your shot at fame whenever you have it. Maybe it’s about living large and in charge.
Maybe it’s just plain crazy.
As a Longhorns basketball fan, I can give you what I would consider a fine example from the 2009 – 2010 season. His name? Avery Bradley. Bradley showed some real promise this season. He has one of the smoothest releases I’ve seen in college hoops in quite some time. He was inconsistent as a finisher, but there were the makings of something great. He started the season strong, but didn’t play nearly as well when the games were on a bigger stage at the end of the season. When the Horns needed leadership, he was nowhere to be found. Simply put, he was skilled but young.
Would another year of college hoops have made his game – both offensively and defensively – that much better? Absolutely. Would he have matured as a player? Absolutely. Would it have given him another year’s worth of credits towards a degree? Absolutely. But Bradley was selected 19th in the draft by the Boston Celtics. Contrast this with the Celtics second round pick Luke Harangody, who played four seasons at Notre Dame.
The question now is this: will Bradley become a starter?
Sadly, the odds don’t favor it. One NBA scout has noted that since 1989, only 30% of first rounders drafted after the 5th pick will go on to become starters (starting half the games they played in). Those are not very good numbers. The vast majority go on to become statistics before they are 21 or 22 years old – and without a degree upon which to depend.
A free degree, I might add, for those scholarship athletes. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.
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