The Reality of College Hoops and Pro Draft
To the editors:
David R. De Remer's sports column, "Maybe They Should Stay in School" (Sports, April 5) caught my attention because the author doesn't seem to fully understand the influx of underclass basketball players into the pros.
As much as basketball fans and analysts have bemoaned players leaving after only one year of college ball or straight out of high school, the bottom line is that players leave early if they know they'll be drafted high. De Remer can talk all he wants about Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves staying to win an NCAA championship, but he has to remember that Cleaves is still a questionable first round draft pick at best because Cleaves is a 40 percent career shooter. Would Cleaves have stayed if he'd been a guaranteed lottery pick? He stayed partly to win a championship, and partly to improve his draft stock.
Duke's Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery left because they knew they'd be lottery picks, and they were. They also probably wanted to win championships, perhaps as much as Cleaves, but they were able to leave because they would have been drafted higher.
One of De Remer's most misguided claims is that Mateen Cleaves is "set for life" as a result of the endorsement dollars that will roll in after his clutch performance Monday night. Sure, he played a great game, but when did you last hear the names Scotty Thurman, Donald Williams, Ed O'Bannon, Ricky Moore or Miles Simon in commercials? All of these players had excellent performances on Monday nights, but they are proof that a good title game does not an endorser make. The names Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant are a bit more recognizable, and neither played a minute in college.
Early entry of underclass students requires a much more balanced and knowledgeable analysis than De Remer cares to give.
Instead of castigating players who leave early, writers and fans should try to understand why players leave early. They should think about what they themselves would do if they came from the inner cities and had millions of dollars staring them in the face, and also the possibiities of injuries, ineligibility and trouble with agents if they stayed in the college game.
Nnamdi D. Okike '02
April 5, 2000
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