It’s no secret that the biggest story in college basketball this season is the freshmen class: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon.
Those guys are superstars. They’ve been talked about as high schoolers. They’re already being talked about as the savior of NBA franchises. There’s a reason that the Champions Classic, which featured three of those four freshmen, got massive ratings.
But is that a good thing for the sport?
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says no.
“Nationally, I’m a little bit worried that that is always becoming a thing,” Krzyzewski told reporters Tuesday. “I think part of it is that people who show our games show NBA, too. So, the constant thought is cross-promoting.”
“I love ESPN, and I think they should do whatever they want to do. But what I’m saying is, in some ways, we as a college basketball community should not completely buy into that.”
Coach K also said that two guys that he coached with Team USA this summer, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott, should be getting more attention.
“These kids [the freshmen] are all great, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But there are other great kids. Two kids who played in the summer for me in a five-day mini camp in Vegas with 28 other NBA players were McDermott and Smart. Well, they’re two of the best players in the country. They may be the two best.”
Coach K has a point. What the one-and-done rule has done is force college basketball’s biggest stars, the guys that NBA fans can watch and “scout” and imagine leading their team to the NBA finals, into one-year stopovers at the collegiate level. But it has also made college basketball that much more relevant. Star power attracts viewers. People want to witness greatness, and while I would love to see those four freshmen spend three or four years playing at the collegiate level, it ain’t gonna happen.
The one-and-done rule is here to stay, and frankly, it’s a good thing for college basketball. Getting these talents onto a college campus, even for a year, is a good thing for the sport. It’s a good thing for coaches landing recruits like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. It’s a good thing for fans that enjoy watching awesome basketball players and it’s a good thing for writers that love writing about awesome basketball players.
You don’t like freshmen being stars? You want them on campus longer? Give them a way to tap into their value. I bet if Jabari Parker could make a comparable amount in college to what he can make in the NBA, he’d be much more likely to hang around for more than one season.