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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

College or Pro basketball?

If you are a poor kid who is a great high school basketball player, what should you do when you get out of school and want to take financial advantage of your athletic ability? Should you go to college? Should you take a chance trying to make it in the professional ranks with the NBA or a foreign team? Those are mind bending questions for a kid. The NBA money sounds tempting but can you jump from the high school level to that of the pros? I doubt it. There are a few exceptions like LeBron James and Koby Bryant but they are a rarity.

I think a good player should go to college and experience the next level of basketball above high school competition. The good college programs give players maximum exposure and probably a little something on the side from the sports crazy alums. I remember years ago when a football player from Oklahoma was asked if he was going to turn pro early. He replied tongue in cheek that "I might but I hate to have to take a pay cut." That drew a nice laugh but more than once that situation has been true. That’s why many programs get put on probation.

If a kid can make it big in basketball at the college level, he can always leave school after one or two years and cash in then. A good college performance means more money from the pros than a kid could ever receive after high school. On the negative side is the injury factor. If he blows out a knee or an ACL in college that could be the end of a big payday for him. It’s a risk but I think it is one worth taking.

Going to college and leaving early seems to be the norm these days. In this year’s NCAA Tournament, there are close to thirty players who were college freshmen or sophomores within the last couple of years who turned professional in 2008 and 2009. Among them was Jerryd Bayless, a star at the University of Arizona who they could have really used this year. He might have been enough to get Arizona into the tournament. But, he chose to turn pro and take the big bucks. Why not? He is probably set for life financially and if he feels that he wants to complete his studies for a college degree, he can always do that in the off season.

Some writers are complaining because the field in the NCAA is weaker this year. So what? They are just college kids and it’s nice to see some of the smaller and more academic schools like Cornell of the Ivy League get in and have some success. If one wants to watch big time pro basketball, the NBA may be more appropriate.

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