This is a debate that just continues to rage on. Should high school players be allowed to jump straight to the NBA? The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Jeremy Tyler, a 6-11 junior, has dropped out of San Diego High School and will play professionally in Europe.
Huh? Not only is Tyler skipping college, but he’s actually dropping out of high school. “Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better,” Tyler told the times. “If you’re really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing in college.”The logic is sound. California native Brandon Jennings skipped college and went to Europe. He played with Lottomatica Virtus Roma in Italy and is projected to be a high NBA first-round draft pick this summer. There’s no doubt Jennings has improved his game playing against professionals in Europe. But skipping your senior year in high school to play pro ball in Europe? Tyler is clearly taking this too far.I’m torn whether high school ball players should be able to go straight to the NBA. There are some players (LeBron James, Dwight Howard) who have no business playing in college. But for everyone else, a year or two in college is needed.Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are two success stories of high school players skipping college. But they also serve as an example as to why playing in college is not such a bad thing. Those two didn’t become NBA stars until their third seasons. Look it up. Both had minimal success their first two seasons. A year or two in college wouldn’t have hurt either one.It took Tracy McGrady three years to become a household name. Carmelo Antony, who led Syracuse to a national title in his only year in college, admitted he needed the year in college to refine his game. Let’s say you make the jump. What if you just aren’t good enough? What if you aren’t selected in the first round? No guaranteed money and no education. If Tyler is a flop overseas, what is his recourse? He can go back to high school and get his diploma, but he can’t play in college. And he certainly won’t be able to go to college for free.There is a solution to all of this. NBA commissioner David Stern has said he would like to build the NBA Developmental League into a legitimate minor league. There are currently 16 teams in the D League with two more on the way for the 2009-10 season.
College isn’t for everyone. There are some people, for whatever reason, who just can’t succeed in a college setting. A legitimate NBA minor league would allow players who don’t feel they belong in college to refine their games and get paid doing it.
I admit the college game would suffer if this became a reality. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League both have extensive minor league systems that have worked for decades. But that has been to the detriment of college baseball and hockey.
How many of you can name last year’s NCAA champion in baseball or hockey?
Times are changing. And it’s time for all of us to adjust.