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Slew of talented freshmen will enter draft

The two biggest names in the upcoming NBA draft class, Kansas State forward Michael Beasley and Memphis guard Derrick Rose, have officially declared their eligibility. The 19-year-olds will likely be the first two players taken.

It will mark the second time in as many seasons that the top two picks were “one-and-dones.” Last season, Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Texas’ Kevin Durant were the top two.

In addition to Beasley and Rose, there could be many more freshmen taken in the lottery. Southern California’s O.J. Mayo, Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless, Indiana’s Eric Gordon, LSU’s Anthony Randolph, Texas A&M’s DeAndre Jordan and UCLA’s Kevin Love are virtual locks to be taken in the first 14 picks. That is, of course, “if” they declare.

We use the phony modifier “if” as foolishly as we use “student-athlete.” There is little chance these youngsters will spend another year in college, and an even smaller chance that they’re busting their butts to get A’s, if you know what I mean.

The players certainly have good reasons for going pro, most notably the number of zeros added onto the ends of their bank account balances. If they’re not going to stay all four years and get a degree, they figure, why stay longer than they have to?

It used to be that the absolute best players would come right out of high school. Players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard felt that they were good enough to skip college, and they were right. A lot of other players weren’t.

Some notable busts that could have benefited from a year (or more) in college are Sebastian Telfair and Kwame Brown. Telfair was one of the highest-touted high school players of the decade, but has been relatively ineffective in his first four seasons, averaging 7.8 points and 3.8 assists on three different teams. Brown, the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, has career averages of 7.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Both of these players had the size and talent of NBA players when they were coming out, but they lacked two important characteristics of professional athletes: toughness and maturity. The maturity is probably the biggest factor for young athletes, particularly basketball players, because of the enormous amounts of money available at such an early age.

Two years ago, the NBA recognized the fact that so many players were making the leap from high school to the pros without being ready, either mentally or physically. It instituted a rule raising the minimum age requirement from 18 to 19. While the purpose of the rule was to help these kids make the right decision, it has become merely an obstacle for the top prospects.

Some players are ready to make the leap to the NBA, and others would benefit from going to college. The decision should be made by the player and his family, not by some rule. For players like Beasley and Rose, supernaturally gifted athletes with the toughness of a bull, the rule simply impedes their progress as basketball players. After all, they’re leaving after one year anyway.

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