I have just as many great things to say about college basketball as I do complaints. College basketball is only second to college football — there's no denying that college hoops dominate the month of March. There's so much mystique, history, and pride that comes with college basketball. But at times, I feel like that nostalgia is clouding our vision and preventing us from seeing it for what it's become: a bonafide money grab.
Before I lay into college hoops I think it's important for me to note that I think the NBA has the best commissioner in all of sports and there's really not a close second. Adam Silver has done so much to grow the league and continued on the momentum of David Stern to turn the NBA into a powerhouse league. That being said, I realized that a majority of my issues with NCAA basketball is their eligibility rules and the one-and-done, which will hopefully be eliminated soon.
The modern NBA was built around the one-and-done rule and so I think it's hard for many people to imagine a world where it doesn't exist. Those same people have a great deal of concern that abolishing the one-and-done rule would somehow lessen the quality of play in the NBA and increase the amount of "busts" entering the league. The one-and-done rule was established in 2006, which means that the NBA had existed for 60 years (1946) without one-and-done. What many consider as the "Golden Age" of the NBA with the Showtime Lakers and the Boston Celtics happened in lieu of the one-and-done rule.
High schools players have become busts, and high school players have gone on to become legends. One-and-done players have become busts, and one-and-done players have become legends. Four-year college vets have become busts, and four-year college vets have become legends.
The number of years you play for a college program is rarely ever a direct correlation to your success in the NBA.
A lot of sports debates, especially ones about the NCAA come in waves and are often predicated by yet another moment in which the NCAA is exposed as the corrupt, inept and ass-backward organizations known to man. So when I read that RJ Hampton, a highly-touted 5-star PG recruit, signed with the New Zealand Breakers instead of playing for a college team, all this came to the surface for me.
Personally, I love this move. In many of the pressers, Hampton did after he made his announcement he was completely honest with his intentions on the signing. He wants to focus on only basketball, nothing else. At one point, he makes a point in saying that he doesn't want to try and balance books with basketball and his ultimate goal has been to play in the NBA, not for a college team. Overseas leagues are structured to resemble the NBA, so Hampton's conditioning himself to play a full season instead of the small sample size that comes with playing in the NCAA.
I'd like to see more college basketball players weighing the benefits of playing for an NCAA team and it probably should be a more open discussion among the public as a whole. We don't live in the dark ages of media anymore, so it's not as if Hampton playing in New Zealand is suddenly going to wipe him off everyone's radar.
For everything there is to love about college basketball, I can definitely envision a world in which more blue-chip athletes opt for the overseas professional route, or the G-League if the NBA ever decides to seriously invest in it, as opposed to the half-baked, money-grab of a season the NCAA has turned itself into.