As soon as the final buzzer sounded at Monday night’s NCAA championship game, a slew of underclassmen started declaring for the NBA draft. Sophomore Cody Zeller of Indiana and his teammate, junior Victor Oladipo, are gone. Freshman Ben McLemore of Kansas, sophomore Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse, junior Phil Pressey of Missouri are leaving. Louisville junior guard Russ Smith is headed to the NBA, if you believe his dad. Many expect Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke to declare. And, freshman Ricky Ledo of Providence has declared for the NBA draft even though he never played a game in college. He was academically ineligible.
Most of these guys are expected to be lottery picks and make big money in their first NBA contacts. While it may make sense for a few elite players to pursue the NBA, their high-profile stories can take away from the idea that a college education is important, even for athletes. (The bench player who graduates with a degree in biochemistry and goes on to work as a researcher won’t get as much press coverage.)
So, for your high school-aged son, nephew or neighbor who may have NBA dreams, give them this reality: there are about 550,000 boys playing high school basketball in this country. There are about 5,200 young men playing major college basketball. There are about 450 players in the NBA. Do the math. If they can’t handle that equation, they clearly need to stay in school.