Monday, November 24, 2003

A possible solution to the NCAA hoops NBA problem

Driving in the Canadian back-country gave me time to think about some important things - like global warming, the war in Iraq, the importance of nano-technology in our future, and of course the nagging problem of players leaving the NCAA or high school early to head for the NBA.

While I didn't solve any of the other problems, I may have an idea for the NCAA. First let's lay things out. Kids go to high school for 4 years - that is a given. The world knows you have to at least have a high school education. College is generally needed for most people to succeed in the higher societal classes, but it is not a necessity. The purpose of NCAA basketball used to be to develop players, give them an education and win championships. While that is still true for the vast majority of players, now the cream of every crop either never goes to college or skips out early. For the best of the best, the goal is to showcase your talent to put you in the best position to get drafted - bottomline. So if going to college for a year helps position you probably for the NBA, then you go a year (Bosh). If you don't need to exposure and have the talent, you don't go at all. So who loses - the NCAA. Fact is - Lebron James could probably have gone to the NBA LAST year, but it was a given that he had to finish high school. Why should high schools actually benefit?

That all leads me to an idea. What if NCAA schools started signing up kids as juniors and seniors in high school, bringing them the campus and letting them finish their high school education on a college campus? They will be able to compete at the collegiate level in basketball, giving them the exposure and development they need as basketball players on a higher level. After all, what are all the summer camps and AAU circuits for - but to develop and showcase their talent against better competition. As for their education, they can finish their high school curriculum on campus, so they do not lose out.

Obviously there are potential issues. What about years of eligibility? What about kids who need another 2 years to develop (after 4) and don't have any years left, but they are only 20 years old? How hard is it to properly judge the most talented players in high school as juniors / seniors? How would colleges handle younger kids on campus and build a proper curriculum to get their high school diploma?

This is just some brain food. There are many pitfalls. But the NCAA needs to be competitive in getting the talented players to this level, and not having so many of them skip out. When we have a child prodigy in music, what do they do? They usually pull them out of school and send them to a place for gifted musicians. In general, kids that are super-gifted in a special area are given exposure in an environment that allows them to nourish and develop that ability. Was Lebron James better off playing a bunch of high-school kids and demolishing them his senior year, or would he have been better playing for Louisville for 30-35 games his senior year?

Just some thoughts on how the NCAA can be more competitive and not miss out on the best players. Maybe it could just start with new seniors, so they would only miss their senior year.

What do you think??