Over the weekend, CJ McCollum broke the fifth-metatarsal in his right foot as Lehigh visited VCU, an injury serious enough that it essentially ended any chance of McCollum suiting up for a regular season college basketball game ever again.
On Monday, David Steele of the Sporting News filed a column that essentially said McCollum’s injury is yet another example of why players should leave for the seven figure contracts of the NBA when their stock is the highest. If you remember, after sparking the Mountainhawks to an upset of Duke in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, McCollum declared for the draft but eventually ended up pulling his name out and, obviously, returning to school for his senior year.
In principle, I agree with Steele. The career of a professional athlete is limited. Eventually, knees break down and backs give out as old age kicks in, with each offseason bringing in a new crop of physically blessed 20 year olds that want nothing more than to win your job.
I firmly believe that it makes sense to capitalize on those physical gifts as much as possible. That’s why I think that it’s silly when a guy that’s a lock for the first round returns to school. If you’re looking to set yourself up financially for life and provide for your family, why would you pass on the guaranteed, seven-figure contract that will allow you to avoid pretending to care about class and get rid of those pesky practice limits?
But here’s the problem with Steele’s argument: McCollum was not one of those guys. There was no guarantee that he would get picked in the first round last season. He’s a 6-foot-3 scoring guard whose strength is as a slasher. He’s Dwyane Wade minus three inches and no where near as explosive. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, but he would have been one of those guys sweating out the end of the first round, hoping that someone was willing to make an investment on him.
The same can be said for Mike Moser, another guy that has been injured this season after returning to school. Steele uses him in his argument as well. Moser was terrific last season, but he’s a combo-forward that’s not strong enough to play in the post in the NBA and that shot 33.1% from three last season. He may have gotten drafted, but it all-likelihood it would have been in the second round.
Those two both came back to school for three reasons:
1) A chance for another season playing with their teammates. We can make fun of college sports for simply being a proving ground for the next level, but that doesn’t change the fact that those 19 and 20 year olds become a family during their time together.
2) The opportunity to spend another season working on their game and proving themselves for the next level. McCollum had been shooting the ball much, much better this season and, prior to the injury, was projected as a lottery pick by DraftExpress.com. Moser, before the injury, was going to get a chance to prove himself on the perimeter as UNLV’s front line is populated by Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch.
3) The 2013 Draft is wide-open. Think about it like this: Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III, two guys that could have been top five picks in 2011, went late in the 20’s in 2012. Those are the guys that McCollum and Moser would have been battling with to earn a spot in the first round.
Steele is right.
It’s dumb to return to school and risk injury when you have guaranteed millions staring you in the face.
But neither Moser nor McCollum were in that situation.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.