Freshmen College Athletes Going Pro — Is It a Problem?

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Freshmen College Athletes Going Pro — Is It a Problem?

Lincoln Byrd, Author

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In recent years, there has been an ongoing trend for freshmen college basketball players to spend one year in college before immediately going into the NBA. Just this year, more than 30 freshmen basketball players declared for the NBA draft.

So, why is this happening?

Just ten years ago, the NBA banned players from joining the NBA straight out of high school, like LeBron James did. Instead, players had to spend at least one year in college before going pro. A major reason this “one and done” trend began was to allow young, well-developed players to have at least some higher education before going on to make millions in the NBA.

At Duke University this year, four freshmen are leaving the team to go pro, including Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. This is the the greatest number of freshmen to be one-and-done while playing for coach Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils, and many find it surprising that he’s allowing this.

Many former NBA players have expressed their opinions on the situation, such as Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard JJ Reddick, saying it’s a problem that these kids aren’t getting educated.

Oddly enough, this year’s champion, Virginia University, is one of the few colleges that won’t accept players who will leave college early for the NBA draft. Coach Tony Bennett explained, “See, here at Virginia University, we want committed players to the game of basketball. We want players that want to stick around all four years of college to learn more and gain experience and help our program win championships.”

While it may seem that completing only one year of college isn’t enough for these athletes, the question of whether the one year is really worth anything comes up.

These freshmen who go into the draft are likely to get picked early and are bound to have bright, lucrative careers. An example of this would be the new phenomenon Zion Williamson.

Williamson, who is going to the NBA after one season at Duke, is expected to be the first overall pick in the draft. Many have analyzed his game, where he puts up tremendous numbers and has a style that could be compared to Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

But earlier this season, Williamson’s shoe tore during a game, which caused a lower leg injury, forcing him to sit out for a month. Injury can be a huge deal for these young stars, especially in college, potentially hurting their legacy in the pros. College athletes don’t get paid, which already draws enough controversy in itself, but a devastating career injury could impact the rest of an athlete’s life.

Take Kevin Ware from the University of Louisville, for example. Ware was a promising college athlete who seemed to have a bright future in the NBA until a game against Duke in the NCAA tournament when he jumped to block a shot and landed funny on his right leg, causing it to snap in half. Due to that gruesome injury, Ware never got a chance to go pro and is lucky enough to even walk today.

Athletes with promising careers are trying to avoid becoming the next Kevin Ware by spending as little time as possible in college. Williamson was able to come back from his injury and, with the help of RJ Barrett and Tre Jones, was able to lead Duke all the way to the elite eighth round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Michigan State.

So while many colleges are perfectly fine with the one-and-done situation, there are plenty of conflicting views. In the end, the players are making the decision that they believe will be best for their career.