Does college basketball really matter anymore?
NCAA hoops used to be where high school stars learned the game, says Michael Sokolove in The New York Times Magazine. But now college is just a one-year rest stop on the way to the NBA
Perry Jones III is the kind of basketball player who can turn a good college team into a powerhouse, says Michael Sokolove in The New York Times Magazine. At just 19, the Baylor University freshman is nearly 7 feet tall, with the explosive speed and ball-handling skills of a much-smaller point guard. Yet "just about everyone assumes that he will be a one-and-done player... a pure rental who stays for a single season." That's just the way it is these days. College teams are being torn apart before they cohere, and the N.B.A. is becoming "at times, utterly unwatchable, because the rosters are stocked with too many players who were never fully taught the game and are learning on the job." Here, an excerpt:
There is a circularity to this, a kind of senselessness in which recruiting becomes a game within a game, divorced from the traditional goals associated with a team. Perry Jones III will most likely lead to some version of Perry Jones IV, Perry Jones V and so on — big-time prospects will be drawn to Baylor because it’s a basketball program that signs big-time prospects. Baylor made Jones a better player this season, but he is unlikely to ever become a mature college player, one who develops over time and grows alongside teammates. If he decides to leave Baylor after one season, some NBA team will make him a high pick and an instant millionaire based solely on his potential. His first pro coaches, though, are likely to wish he had gained more experience in college. Tough enough for the Big 12 is not tough enough for professional basketball.