Earlier this week NCAA President Mark Emmert discussed the idea of possibly allowing players to enter the NBA Draft directly out of high school. Of course, the fact of the matter is that this decision rests in the hands of the NBA (its owners and players’ association would have to negotiate this as part of their collective bargaining agreement) so the college game won’t have much influence on whether or not things change in this regard.
Obviously there was a time when high school grads could make the jump immediately, with players such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett making good on the promise shown at the prep level. But for every Kobe or Kevin there were players like Leon Smith and Korleone Young whose careers failed to live up to the promise. Young’s story is of particular interest to college basketball fans, given the relationship between he and Myron Piggie while playing grassroots basketball for the Kansas City-based Children’s Mercy Hospital 76ers.
Young would eventually develop into one of the best prospects in the country, but instead of heading to college he entered the 1998 NBA Draft straight out of Hargrave Military Academy. From there evolved a cautionary tale that any prep phenom can learn from, even with today’s rules requiring that a player’s high school class be one year removed from graduation (and at least 19 years of age).
Young endured struggles in both basketball and his personal life, as illustrated in a story written by Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.
Life went on for Al Harrington, for [coach Alvin] Gentry, for [agent Jerome] Stanley, and for the others. Young’s life has become suspended in time, a Möbius strip of what-ifs. What if he’d had his father in his life? What if he’d never left Wichita East? What if he had gone to college? What if he had dedicated himself to the game? What if he’d studied the business of the NBA? What if he’d accepted responsibility earlier?
Where is Korleone Young now? Right where he started, still trying to get started.
This is an incredible story, something that all young players should take some time to read. The story can be read here.