Welcome to Friday Food For Thought, the weekend conversation starter. Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table, the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also be included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.
The Issue: Has the “One And Done” (OAD) rule been good for college basketball and more specifically, for North Carolina?
With the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, the NBA moved to stem the rising tide of players drafted directly out of high school. High school players were becoming more frequent draft participants including number 1 overall picks Kwame Brown (2001), LeBron James (2003) and Dwight Howard (2004). Starting with the 2006 draft, all players must at least have their 19th birthday in the year of the draft and must be at least one year removed from high school.
It is the second requirement that is the key driver of the OAD effect. Although playing overseas or taking a year off are certainly options for graduating high school seniors, the vast majority choose to showcase their skills in the collegiate game. North Carolina has only had two OADs during this time. Brandan Wright was drafted eighth in 2007. Tony Bradley went twenty-eighth last year. Marvin Williams was taken as the second overall pick in 2005, which was just before the new rule.
For both the college generally and the Tar Heels specifically, the OAD rule has been very favorable. From a broad perspective, the rule makes sure that the most talented high school players in the country step foot on the college court. The better the talent, the better the game. The rule also prevents players who are very high on potential but unable to initially deliver results from making the life-long mistake of declaring too early.
The Heels have not waded deeply into the OAD pool, but that is not necessarily by choice. Roy Williams has recruited numerous potential OAD players only to see them repeatedly go to Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, or elsewhere. While those players are filling up rival rosters, however, Carolina is filling out its squad with quality next-level high school players who stay in school for three or four years.
Since 2006, Williams’ Tar Heels have amassed 349 wins (averaging 29 wins per season). They have won two National Championships, gone to four Final Fours, and have been to the Elite Eight a total of 7 times. They have only missed the NCAA Tournament once, in 2009-2010, when they were the NIT Runner-Up. The player development that occurs on a Roy Williams’ team can not occur in a single season, at least not with the same level of success. Without the OAD rule, many of the players that came to Carolina may have been more strongly recruited by other schools with roster spots devoid of the top incoming freshmen. It is hard to argue with the recruiting success in Lexington and Durham and one has to wonder what a Carolina roster would have looked like if those schools were in the mix.
OAD players are bad for college basketball and the concept has been bad for North Carolina. For those who have a realistic chance of being drafted directly out of high school, a touch-and-go college experience is of little value. Many of those players do not even attend classes in the second semester of their freshman (only) season because eligibility is determined at the end of the first semester. What is the point of late April classes for an athlete who completed play in March?
Players who are dedicated to only a single season also deprive fans of the opportunity to get to know the individuals as they grow and develop. To see them in good times and in difficult circumstances. To celebrate wins and losses. To develop memories. They cause roster turnover to such an extent that schools become metaphors (“OAD factory”) instead of teams led by upper classmen with college experience and history.
Most frustratingly, totally unproven potential becomes the dominating story for as long as or longer than the actual season. On the day following the National Championship, college basketball stories started referencing how great Duke will be in 2018-19. They have now lost their entire starting five from last year and yet will dominate college hoops media for over seven months until games are actually played again. Stories of development, like that of Luke Maye, are lost among the noise of “what’s next.”
The same was true last year. The nation spent a tremendous amount of time fawning over a class that ultimately tied for 5th at the end of the season. Not bad, but certainly not historical. By the way, Villanova had no OADs.
Left behind in all of the incoming freshmen phenom hoopla is a true appreciation for the coaches who successfully develop players over multiple years. In a perfect world, that sort of on-court improvement would trump the salesman skills of a recruiter.
Finally, I would love to ask the FBI how the move of a high level prospect from high school to an interim year at college to the NBA has encouraged the current environment. Perhaps that is a topic for a future debate.
In need of encouragement to debate – Why is it cold again? This weather is crazy and drives the need for a beverage that warms the heart. This week, we are going with Clyde May’s straight bourbon whiskey. I never had whiskey from Alabama before but this stuff is great. Go for the 110 Proof and drink with just one or two cubes of ice.
Can debate without assistance – Is anyone actually debating these topics without assistance? Please leave a message if regular suggestions are required but otherwise, we may just assume that encouragement is needed.