I agree 100% with Bob Knight about the damage so-called “one and done” players have wrought on the college game. Their presence (or absence as the case may be) creates a “hired gun” image in college sports that dissuades fans from getting attached to their favorite players. Additionally, as Knight pointed out, some of these players only attend classes in the Fall to obtain eligibility and then skip classes as soon as they have declared for the draft. As a college basketball analyst, Knight is entirely correct to draw attention to this problem. Furthermore, I applaud him for having the courage to call out his alma mater, Ohio State, for being the school that has had the greatest number of freshmen declare early for the NBA.
What’s that? Knight didn’t mention the Buckeyes during his rant that falsely accused 5 Kentucky players of not attending classes the Spring after the 2010 season? Not a word about OSU’s five freshmen entrants since the “one and done” rule was instituted in 2006? Of course not. For Knight to have done that, he’d actually had to have done his diligence as an analyst. It’s much simpler to advance his agenda by picking on his favorite “bogeyman,” John Calipari. Since Coach Knight skipped his homework (ironic in this discussion, ain’t it?), let’s take a look at the facts regarding freshmen entering the NBA draft.
Since 2006, Ohio State leads the pack with 5 freshmen entrants: Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, and BJ Mullens. Kentucky is next with 4, all from last year: Eric Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Daniel Orton. Georgia Tech, North Carolina, USC, and UCLA all have had three freshmen go pro. Contrary to Knight’s implication that John Calipari is leading the pack in recruiting this phenomenon, it would seem that this practice is fairly spread out among college programs. All told, 26 NCAA Division I programs have had a freshman declare early, including Knight’s old school Indiana, who may have had more than one had they not gone on probation. I’m sure Knight will be getting around to chastising them soon enough. Even Duke, with Knight protegé Coach K, will have their first early entrant this year in Kyrie Irving (hmmm, wonder if he’s going to class).
And to Knight’s major allegation, that these players aren’t going to class, again he’s out to lunch. Coach Knight, of course, flat-out misrepresented Kentucky’s players last year as all of those mentioned attended class, including John Wall who was accorded membership on the SEC’s academic honor roll. Only Daniel Orton took the easy way out missing classes. Not only that, but all of Kentucky’s entrants, save Orton, left school “wisely,” being sure of quality draft position and playing time in the NBA. Contrast that with Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Kosta Koufos, neither of whom attended third quarter classes in Columbus after declaring, as well as Daequan Cook and BJ Mullens who undoubtedly should have remained in school if only to improve their chances for success in the league.
Now does any of this mean Thad Matta is unethical, or not “good for college basketball”? Hardly. Matta, like every other coach, gets paid to bring the best players to his school and win games. The current system allows for players to exploit the college game as a “minor league” stepping stone to the NBA. As we saw above, there aren’t any coaches stepping away from the “one and done” table. If they can get that player to commit, even for a season, they will gladly enroll them in classes. You think Tom Crean at Indiana is concerned whether his highly touted incoming class will stay four years? No, he needs to win now. More pointedly, if Knight were still coaching, (and could get 5 stars to come to his team. He didn’t get many at the end of his career) does anyone think he wouldn’t recruit these kids? Not on your life. As I pointed out yesterday, Knight jumped off his “anti-Juco” podium fairly quickly when he got Keith Smart and Dean Garrett to bring a championship to Bloomington.
Those are the facts. The system is broken, but no one team or person broke it. Hopefully, Coach Knight and other journalists will now begin to heed their own advice and “go to class” before making false allegations that unnecessarily bring disrepute to those on the other end.