School for the NBA
this year’s NBA talent extravaganza be the Taj McDavid/Korleone
Young draft, or the Kevin Garnett/Kobe Bryant draft? If you’re
not sure, stay in school.
Jumping into the NBA straight out of high school and skipping
college “is a misguided dream for the minority youth of our nation,”
says Danny, a college sophomore from New York City recently playing
hoops on an asphalt court in Central Park. “While my peers think
of going to Ivy League schools and have realistic dreams, these
guys have aspirations that are totally whack.”
While Kobe Bryant is celebrating his second consecutive NBA championship,
and All-Star Kevin Garnett is living large in Minneapolis, there
are far more Taj McDavids and Korleone Youngs—players who tried
and failed at the draft, and are no longer even eligible to play
NCAA basketball in college. They are left without an education,
living broken lives.
What went wrong?
the difference between greatness and the self-perception of greatness,”
said Pee Wee Kirkland, a New York playground legend who now runs
the School for Skillz youth basketball program. Young is now playing
minor league basketball, still chasing his dream. McDavid, after
a series of odd jobs, has yet to find himself.
This year’s draft, for the first time ever, was dominated by high
school players; they made up half of the first eight picks. While
they will get their money, they will lose out in the long run
by failing to develop—both basketball-wise and maturity-wise—while
sitting on the bench.
An even bigger problem has been the record number of college undergraduates
leaving school to declare early for the draft, rather than waiting
until they get their degrees. Two local players, who both thought
they would have guaranteed spots in the top 29 picks, had their
hopes dashed during second-round selections. St. John’s freshman
point guard, Omar Cook, was very upset but still determined to
succeed. “You’re so disappointed when you work out so hard for
these teams,” Cook said. “But I’ve been doing that—feeling the
pressure to make good—my whole life. I can’t do anything about
While Cook had a great freshman year, he was still “a jumpshot
away from the lottery,” the top 13 picks in the draft, according
to University of Louisville coach and former New York Knicks coach
Rick Pitino. Another year in college may have secured him tens
of millions of dollars instead of his current, non-guaranteed
NBA minimum contract of $300,000.
University of Cincinnati’s Kenny Satterfield, another great player
who missed the lottery, went a very disappointing 54th to the
Dallas Mavericks. Like Cook, and other early entries, Satterfield’s
decision to enter the NBA may have been exacerbated by financial
pressures. Surrounded by agents and others who want a piece of
the financial pie, these good college players, who could benefit
from staying in college, are misguided into going for the draft
Cook and Satterfield may still succeed—but most players in their
situation fall by the wayside. While sometimes it is Kobe-time,
the McDavid story is, unfortunately, far more common. #
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