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Jones: One-year gap before pros still a wise rule

Published March 2, 2013 4:37 pm

NBA • Injuries are a risk in college, but maturity gained is necessary to ensure players' longevity.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The image was certainly a sobering one: Nerlens Noel lying on the floor grasping at his knee in horrific pain.

The following diagnosis wasn't good either, with a torn ACL ending the season for Kentucky's big man, and putting his status as a future No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in serious peril.

Predictably, the columns and the cries for reform began in earnest. The NBA's rule that requires at least a year of college should be rescinded, wrote some. Guys who are good enough to play in the league right away should be allowed to, wrote others.

Yes. The opinions were certainly predictable. They are also hogwash.

Noel is the best shot-blocker in college basketball, a definite lottery pick — torn-up knee or not. And he's also a better player for at least having experienced college for a year. His draft stock isn't going to drastically slip because of an injury. He's not going to never make the league because he's gotten hurt. He's not the first person to rip up his knee. He won't be the last.

NBA commissioner David Stern put the rule in for a reason: He simply wants guys coming into his league more physically and mentally equipped to handle the rigors of pro basketball. People will no doubt point to LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant as examples of those who thrived while jumping from preps to pros.

What they forget about are people like Johnathan Bender, Shaun Livingston and Robert Swift — those who flamed out quickly.

Trust me. There are a lot more Robert Swifts than Kobe Bryants.

If anything, the rule needs to be two years. One and dones — as they are called — have turned college basketball into something of a farm system, and have robbed the sport of guys the general public can identify with.

It's also allowed the leeches of coaching — John Calipari, please wave hello — to thrive in recruiting and turn places like Kentucky into nothing more than shameful pit stops for players looking to strike it rich.

Making guys go to school for two years changes that. The answer, however, is not going back to high schoolers declaring for the draft.

And one major injury to a major star is not going to change that.

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tjonessltrib