Newberry: Time for ‘1-and-dones’ to be done
ATLANTA — Darius Bazley wants to be a pioneer.
Sure, three others have taken a straight line from high school to the NBA development league.
But Bazley is one of the nation’s best high school players, so everyone perked up when he announced his intention to spend a season in the minors rather than a couple of sham semesters posing as a student.
In the end, we can only hope his decision leads to a truly seismic shift in the game.
Maybe Bazley will be the one who finally brings down the silly one-and-done rule.
Rest assured, everyone will benefit from such a change:
— The scandal-ridden college game might miss out on a handful of top recruits each season, but it would continue to thrive with the players it gets. And who knows? Maybe it would actually help cut down on some of the rampant corruption .
— The NBA could start developing prospects right out of high school in a pro-based system, competing with and against players who’ve had experience in the league without having to rush those who aren’t ready.
— The G League would get an influx of big-time talent at a time when it’s making a major push to raise its profile. All but three NBA teams have their own minor-league affiliate and some cities are even building new arenas to lure franchises.
— The players, of course, would get to decide whether they want to go to college or start making a living right away. You know, like everyone else (with the notable exception of high school football stars, who must go to college for three years if they want to play in the NFL).
Bazley, a 6-foot-9 forward from Cincinnati, initially committed to play next season for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Then, after competing this week in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta, he revealed that he intends to play in the G League instead of for the Orange on his way to the NBA.
Naturally, that set off frenzied speculation about the impact of Bazley’s decision. Will other top prospects follow his lead? Is playing in the G League a better way to bolster one’s draft prospects and prepare for the NBA?
As long as the current system remains in place — requiring a player to be 19 and a year removed from high school before entering the NBA draft pool — Bazley is likely to be an outlier.
With the G League offering salaries of only around $25,000, it still makes more sense to play a year in a high-profile college program — or, if you must, go overseas to play for far more money, the path taken by Brandon Jennings when he went to Europe.
But Bazley believes his decision will pay off in the end.
And not just for him.
“I’m aware that this might start a trend, and that’s one of the reasons why I am doing this,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports, sounding mature enough to be in the NBA right now. “This is going to happen down the road and become more common. But someone has to start the fire — and I believe I’m going to do that, and it’s very important to me.”
Kansas coach Bill Self, in San Antonio for the Final Four, wouldn’t mind getting rid of the one-and-done system.
He does object to the path Bazley has chosen.
“I do believe kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school,” Self said Friday. “I don’t believe that they should be able to go to the G League out of high school. To me, putting themselves in a situation in the G League where they’re not eligible to be an NBA player, there will be a percentage of kids that make that decision — whether it be academic, whether it be whatever decision — that will never ever experience being an NBA basketball player.
“And then what do they have when that’s gone?”
Good point, coach.
That’s why we need to dump the barrier that prevents Bazley and those like him from pursuing their NBA dreams as soon as they become legal adults. If they can vote and fight wars, they should be able to sign professional contracts and not just letters of intent.
Of course, most high school players would still be best-served by entering college, and no doubt that’s the route most of them would continue to take even if the NBA draft was an option.
Just look back to 2005, the last time prep players were eligible for the draft. Only three first-round picks came from U.S. high schools, led by largely forgettable Martell Webster going to Portland at No. 6 overall. Another six prepsters were selected in the second round — which, it should be noted, worked out just fine for Louis Williams, C.J. Miles and Amir Johnson, who are all still in the league.
There’s never been a more appropriate time to make this most obvious of changes.
The four teams in San Antonio — Kansas, Michigan, Villanova and Loyola — have proven that a freshman prodigy is not required to win a national championship. Kentucky and Duke , both loaded with one-and-done prospects, are nowhere to be found.
The one-and-done is no longer needed.
Let’s just make it done.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press